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  Innocence Put Away Childish Things
Year: 2004
Director: Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Stars: Zoé Auclair, Bérangère Haubruge, Lea Bridarolli, Marion Cotillard, Hélène de Fougerolles, Allison Lalieux, Astrid Homme, Ana Paloma-Diaz, Olga Peytavi-Müller, Véronique Nordey, Corinne Marchand, Sonia Petrovna, Micheline Hadzihalilovic
Genre: WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: There's a new arrival at the girls' boarding school, Iris (Zoé Auclair), and she appears as they all do in a coffin placed in the dormitories. The other girls open the lid and Iris opens her eyes, looking confused and wondering where her little brother could be, but her questions go unanswered as she is dressed and given coloured ribbons to wear in her hair. It's explained by Bianca (Bérangère Haubruge), the eldest, that the ribbons are coordinated depending on the age of the wearer, but Iris is a curious child and will have more queries as her time there progresses...

And so will you, no doubt. You need a lot of patience for Innocence, the debut feature from writer and director Lucile Hadzihalilovic (she had previously made two short films) who was the wife of the more infamous moviemaker Gaspar Noé; the film appears to be dedicated to him. She doesn't share her spouse's bleak view of humanity, but judging by this work it's difficult to see anything but suspicion of the adults of this world at least. As to what the message is, you would have to ask her, it appears to be a fable of the journey to adolescence.

However, the word fable might conjure up an impression of a fairy tale atmosphere, yet the film is far more matter of fact and doesn't entertain notions of fantasy. It's this reticence to develop anything much beyond the here and now, with a vague concern for the future, that adds to the strange quality and I can see how some would find it unsettling. But there's such a thing as being too oblique and Innocence may well lose the attention of its viewers when they twig that nothing willl be explained.

Iris latches onto Bianca, and wonders where her new friend goes every night when the other girls are supposed to be in bed. There are a handful of adult women around, teachers or servants mainly, and they're not letting on to their charges what exactly is going on. Some of the girls become frustrated and want to leave, so one rows off onto the nearby lake only to die (by drowning?) and have her coffin cremated on a funeral pyre and another climbs over the wall when she's not one of the chosen few (chosen to do what?) and disappears.

More than being creepy, the overwhwelming sense is of a sentimentality about childhood before the big bad world of boys looms in the girls' lives. It's almost twee with its numerous scenes of the little ladies performing ballet in a manner that might have been better off filmed by their parents for home movies instead of being inflicted on the audience. The mystery may be sustained to the end, and past it too, but it's too enigmatic for comfort and the director, adapting a nineteenth century novella by Frank Wedekind, obliges us with too few reasons to keep interested. Essentially, the film is symbolic of childhood innocence being eroded by inevitable age, but it certainly makes a meal of this theme. An obscure meal. If you see what I mean. Music by Richard Cooke.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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