Geeky Cinephile Musings…
I don't pontificate, I blather.

Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s “Innocence”

Stay on the path...

I wholeheartedly apologize for my recent dry spell, but let’s face it–it can be hard to get inspired sometimes….aw hell, who am I kidding? I’ve been a slacker. 

But! Thanks to the recent chastisements of a couple of friends of mine who say they actually READ this (thank you Mandi and Tanya, for convincing me to stop being a lazy git), I’ve decided to take pen in hand, em…metaphorically speaking, and throw yet another ridiculously self-indulgent b-log on this fire.  (Ho, ho! Careful folks, she’s hot today!)

Paul and I recently watched the film Innocence, a feature film directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic (try and say that one three times), wife of director Gaspar Noe (Irreversible), based on the novella by Frank Wedekind, and shot by the-man-quickly-becoming-my-cinematographic-hero, Benoit Debie, who incidentally, also shot Irreversible, The Card Player (Argento, Argento!)and the more recent The Runaways.

Now, when it comes to films as exactly cinematically crafted as this one, I start to get nervous as I write, because I feel hopelessly inadequate in my descriptions, but I’ll try my best.  From the very start of the film, I thought to myself, “Whoa, I need to get a notepad and start writing these thoughts down,” but I just had minor surgery, I was laid out on the couch, and frankly I just couldn’t be bothered. 

The film opens with rushing, murky, olive-green water filling the screen, bubbling and moving as the credits roll.  Eventually we pop up out of the water and the camera takes you on a journey through a stream, a forest, a dark alley, a secret door, and finally the school grounds.  The color green dominates this film, as does brown.  Nature rules all in this story–the wonders and horrors of nature.  Water gives life and takes it away, walls are not necessarily made of stone, but of thick brush and verdant leaves, and the same wood warmed by the sun peeking through the trees also warms the face of the coffin each of the newest girls arrive in.  (Nope, sorry, you’ll have to see it yourself.  Not giving away more there.)  Budding sexuality and rebelliousness are also explored, particularly female sexuality and its potential to manipulate.

Once you’re out of the water and onto the land (insert evolution parallels here…), you are now headed inside the school grounds, and you find yourself immersed in the delightfully dark and light world of a group of young girls, ranging in age from approximately 6 to 13, who live at a school unlike any I, or anyone I know, has ever been to.  The teachings of the two schoolmistresses (one of whom is the lovely and talented Marion Cotillard) are rather complex and contrasting.  One minute they’re teaching the young gamins (for you, Mandi) ballet and etiquette, and the next they’re explaining how water is the creator of all life and allowing the pupils to keep animals and play like little savages.  The teachers’ classroom scenes so bordered on pagan, I thought for a moment I was about to be in Wicker Man territory–after all, the two films share many characteristics (including a burning body!) but indeed Innocence turned out to be rather innocuous in terms of plot, completely unlike my beloved cult classic.

No, no, Innocence is one of my favorite types of films–a film that is all about tone.  Watching the dvd extras, I was treated to an admittedly mostly painfully dull interview of Hadzihalilovic, in which she cites wanting to capture the exact feeling of being young and how things appear.  What lies over that wall? Can it hurt us? Ought we perhaps to stay here, stay young, and never experience what might be waiting? Why must we go alone at times? Why must others leave us behind? Why are adults so completely inexplicable?

These types of questions and the way Hadzihalilovic has explored them has left me feeling absolutely exhilarated and wanting more.  The colors are amazingly dreary and lush at the same time, each frame is painstakingly detailed, and the tracking shots through the forest make you feel as though you are there with these girls, looking up at the gray skies, or looking down at your feet, encased tightly in small, hard shoes.  I thoroughly enjoyed her thoughtful direction, and look forward to seeing another film from her soon.

One Response to “Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s “Innocence””

  1. […]  Because Lucile Hadzihalilovic (who is married to Gaspar Noe) also does not like the use of floodlights, Debie took mirrors into the forest to illuminate the shots in Innocence.  (See my blog about this film here.)  […]

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