Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Zoé Auclair, Bérangère Haubruge, Lea Bridarolli, Marion Cotillard, Hélène de Fougerolles
Director: Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Horror
Gushing water. Subterranean rumbling. Sun-dappled green vistas behind huge stone walls. So begins Innocence, a fascinating fable about a mysterious school for girls, where one arrives by coffin to a self-enclosed, highly r... more »
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Great film, bad encoding.
F. M. Alegre | 01/05/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Seriously, I don't know what Home Vision did to this film, as it is the dvd image renders it almost unwatchable. There's just too much combing (when a progressive image is made out of an interlaced one and the image gets "videodromey" whenever there's more movement onscreen).
Being a movie about children, every time they would go out to play and dance around the school, there was some crazy "The Ring"-like effect because of the bad encoding, I thought the children where getting out of the TV to kill me, completely took me out of the story."
Interesting for Marion Cotillard fans....
Kit van Cleave | Houston, TX United States | 05/05/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"German expressionist writer Frank Wedekind's symbolist novella "Mini-Haha: The Corporal Education of Young Girls" (1888) is the basis for this film, directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic. It takes place in a girls' school for affluent students, who arrive in a coffin, one by one, and who are not allowed to leave. (Anyone who tries to leave has to stay there forever, and become one of the old women who are servants to the current girls.) Marion Cotillard plays one of the two teachers, Eva, a ballet teacher; she is often moved to tears. The other teacher is a science teacher, who has a limp. The girls are always dressed in white. Is this beginning to sound like a dream sequence to you? The girls wear colored ribbons to denote their seniority; some of the older girls are eventually taken by train to a city, presumably (but never guess outcome in a dream) to attend another school. The film is admirably discussed on the DVD in two interviews with the director, who declines to "explain" what is happening here. Suffice it to say that this film does not respect chronology or explanation. Like other of Wedekind's works, it exists, and was created, to be absorbed rather than "understood," much as looking at a great painting is assisted by the viewer's openhearted acceptance of the effort. Not for everyone, but an interesting look at Cotillard's choices in her early career -- how the girls' freedom is always tinged with the oppressiveness of their days. Cotillard has a great line: "Obedience is the only path to happiness." Perhaps Wedekind was remarking on the way children were raised in his day. Perhaps the director is remembering her days growing up in an oppressive country in the l960s. It's all up to the viewer."
What's the Story Here?
Artist & Author | Near Mt. Baker, WA | 01/08/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If there is a plot to this movie, my wife and I missed it. However, it does have the capacity to keep one fascinated with the movie, always hoping that something by the end will tie everything together to make watching it a satisfying experience. There are just too many unanswered aspects of this movie to make it seem to have been worth watching as far as 'story' goes. The first question is how and why are the girls chosen to go to the 'school.' My wife kept wondering why no parents ever seemed to show any concern about their daughter. Could it be that each class was groomed for perfection for one to be chosen for some pagan human sacrifice at puberty? We never know. So, we are left to wonder for what purpose such a school existed.
It also seemed a bit curious to me that the girls always seemed to wear their panties, even in the bathroom scenes and when they went swimming in the lake. I'm old enough to remember when the YMCA required all the boys to swim naked if they used the pool. In an all-girl, little girl, setting such as this school, it would seem that nudity would be natural. [There is one scene where 12-year-old Bianca gets out of the tub and you see her fully naked reflection in the mirror; but she is alone.] For a movie entitled 'Innocence' it seemed interesting that the ultimate prepubescent innocence was avoided.
At the end of the movie, the oldest girls are taken by train to Paris. We never know why. For the first time in years the girls observe children laughing and playing like normal kids, a stark contrast to the almost militaristic lives they've led. We don't know from the story if this is just a 'field trip' or if the older women had just left them to fend for themselves. Whatever the reason, the girls soon 'revert' from their picture-perfect selves to normal kids. Is the message of the movie that, underneath, kids are really children no matter how regimented adults make their lives? I would not presume to make any such judgments for you; you'll just have to watch the movie and try to figure out what, if any, meaning it has."
"Innocence": a lyrical, beautiful, and sometimes even clinic
Tate Fairchild | West Chester, Pennsylvania | 01/16/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I came across this film on YouTube one day last week and decided to rent it from Netflix. (Yes, there is an alternative to buying at Amazon when you're not sure you need to own the film.)
This is a film about an exclusive private boarding ballet school in an English speaking country that could nevertheless be, and most likely is, found in many nations of the world, especially the Russian Federation, where people are passionate about ballet as they are no where else. The cost of educating and training this small group of girls in the basic academic arts and dance is offset by the revenues of recitals the girls put on periodically at an old opera house nearby. Since the fate of the school is tied completely to the success of the recitals, the shows must be of very high quality and also please their demanding audiences: the girls must not only dance but look like angels, dressed in white and maintaining perfect figures. They are permitted to roam the extensive grounds of their school so long as they do nothing in order to leave.
It has long been a cliche that ballet companies can be unforgiving with the rare people suited to their art; that the perfectionism demanded by many dance teachers has driven many students to depression, anorexia, and suicide. The girls at this school know they cannot leave, so they do not dwell on the injustices meted out by their teachers, but all but the most successful entertain fantasies about leaving often released in nightmares. Those who act out these fantasies meet differing fates.
It may be necessary to sequester girls away from the leers of males to enable them to dance in white without embarrassment or fear, but it is the rare girl who is willing to forgo knowledge for the privilege. When the girls run away, it is with the audience's understanding and approval. The prettiest and most talented of the girls, on the other hand, find protection at the school and develop patience to become the school's leaders, knowing they are too young to handle the many attentions of boys they would be sure to meet outside. When they finally undergo puberty, these "survivors" are taken to the nearby city and neatly deposited at a city fountain not unlike the lake at their school, where their unselfconscious willingness to splash in white dresses up to their underwear inevitably draws the attention of age-appropriate boys nearby, who will now teach them about love at precisely their moment when love is most magical and sublime. The system works, but only for the elite, those patient enough to wait out the long ordeal.
Let's be as clear about the film as the film is trying to be clear about girls. This film is not pornography by any stretch of the imagination. There is no nudity or sex whatsoever, and shots of girls dressing for ballet or playing on the lawn in white dresses lack all manner of prurience. And that's precisely what the subject of the film is: this is a film about what it FEELS like to be a girl on the cusp of adolescence, before such prurience comes to the fore and makes them "boy crazy". What it feels like, more than anything else, is warm and scared and companionable, but exclusively with girls. There are, in fact, no men on this campus, nor need there be, since the film makes clear that girls of this age do not understand sexual differentiation and, what's more, do not care to.
"Innocence" often drags, much as childhood drags, but it is a visually beautiful film united by a handful of appropriate motifs, water for libido, snow for chastity and purity, rare color for the few reminders of time and aging the girls live with. A riveting film it is not; a sincere and sometimes clinical exploration of coming of age it most certainly is, with the added appeal of music and ballet thrown in.
BTW there is really only one fantastic aspect in the film, but it is easily explained and completely in agreement with the film's theme: the girls leave and arrive in coffins. In light of the above, it should be obvious what this conceit means: the girls who land at a school like this are "dead" to the sexuality within them for as long as they remain there; since there is only one gender there, they do not relate to others as sexually alive people on the outside do but only as objects--objects, in this case, meant for exhibition on a ballet stage. That this "deadness" is common to many girls AND boys at this age is obvious, although the earlier ages of puberty experienced around the world means there is less and less of this "deadness" and more overt sexuality--possibly as a result of films like "Innocence".