The Suffering of “The Innocents” in a Most Cruel War
By Skip Sheffield
Man’s in humanity to man is well-documented. Man’s inhumanity to woman is even worse.
“The Innocents” is “based on actual event.” That’s what makes it harder to take.
The story is set at the end of World War II at a French Red Cross clinic. Mathilde Beaulieu (Lou de Laage) is a Red Cross doctor treating French survivors of German camps, which had only recently been liberated by Russians.
A very upset Benedictine nun appears at the clinic and begs Mathilde to follow her to the nearby convent. What Mathilde discovers shocks her to the core. A holy sister is about to give birth and several more are in advanced stages of pregnancy. Mathilde is an atheist herself, but she feels doubly shamed for the sisters; violated against their will to break their vows of chastity and now unwed mothers.
The head nun, the stern Rev. Mother (Agata Kulesza) wants to keep a lid on the scandal but Mathilde feels the outrage should be exposed to the world. First the nuns were violated by their German captors, then the Russians came along and repeated the vile practice. Now there are Polish Communists around who share disdain for female chastity and purity.
Lou de Laage is an ethereal beauty who so enchanted in the recent Italian film, “L’attesa” (The Wait). She is up to a much bigger challenge here and she surmounts it with grace and dignity.
War is Hell as Gen. U.S. Grant declared most famously. Director Anne Fontaine offers a harrowing glimpse into a most heartbreaking Hell on Earth. It is not pretty, but it happened.