Okay, so it was about time I saw an arty foreign film with very little dialogue at the 2005 Melbourne International Film Festival. No festival experience would be complete without such a film.

Above all it is the entrancing dreamlike quality of Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s film that sets it apart from other features. Innocence features the type of calmly absurd logic that features in the most eerie of dreams. Such aspects of the dreamscape feature the clearest of moments that you simply cannot explain after you wake.

InnocenceInnocence is at times reminiscent of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr (Vampyr – Der Traum des Allan Grey and a gazillion other alternate titles), particularly with the rights of passage scenes. Oh yeah, and the coffin. The narrative itself probably has more to do with The Village, although don’t expect any surprises in this film. The mystery is wonderfully woven, and the ambient soundtrack creates a divinely gothic atmosphere for this ‘place’ that can only be described as a boarding school removed from the rest of the world. The image on the right will stay with me forever – wonderfully haunting and obliquely illogical.

The cast of predominantly young girls must have been remarkably patient – or very ambitious. There are so many scenes where they do little except walk in silence, or tie ribbons in their hair in silence. The director certainly nurtured some wonderfully real (and hence innocent) performances from the actors.

It’s just such a pity that our questions are never really answered. I desperately wanted this film to have a big finish, but unfortunately we were greeted with nothing of the sort. This is particularly frustrating as the final act is drawn out for such a long time. Innocence requires a lot of patience, and to be honest wasn’t thrilling enough for me to recommend except to the most devout of cinema goers. I’d love to have a chance to hear an audio commentary or interview with Hadzihalilovic, mainly in the hopes that she’d explain some of the subtler themes to me, because I wanted to love this film. Instead I was merely proud that I stuck with it through all 115 minutes.

Rating: 3 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 15th August 2005
Hoopla Factor: 2.5 stars

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