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The Innocents (2016)

Les innocentes (original title)
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1945. Mathilde is a French Red Cross doctor working on a mission to help the French survivors of the German camps. While she works in Poland, she is asked for help by a nun. In her convent, several nuns got pregnant.

Director:

Anne Fontaine

Writers:

Sabrina B. Karine (scenario), Alice Vial (scenario) | 3 more credits »
3 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Lou de Laâge ... Mathilde Beaulieu
Agata Buzek ... Maria
Agata Kulesza ... Mère Abesse
Vincent Macaigne ... Samuel
Joanna Kulig ... Irena
Eliza Rycembel ... Teresa
Katarzyna Dabrowska Katarzyna Dabrowska ... Anna
Anna Próchniak ... Zofia
Helena Sujecka ... Ludwika
Mira Maluszinska Mira Maluszinska ... Bibiana
Dorota Kuduk Dorota Kuduk ... Wanda
Klara Bielawka ... Joanna
Pascal Elso Pascal Elso ... Le colonel
Thomas Coumans Thomas Coumans ... Gaspard
Leon Latan-Paszek Leon Latan-Paszek ... Wladek
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Storyline

Poland, winter of 1945. Mathilde Beaulieu (Lou de Lâage) is a young intern working with a branch of the French Red Cross. They are on a mission to find, treat and repatriate French survivors of the German camps. One day, a Polish nun arrives in the hospital. In very poor French, she begs Mathilde to come to her convent. Mathilde life and beliefs change when she discovers the advanced state of pregnancy that affect several of the Sisters of the convent just outside the hospital where she performs.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Based on the remarkable true story. See more »

Genres:

Drama | History

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including sexual assault, and for some bloody images and brief suggestive content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

France | Poland

Language:

French | Polish | Russian

Release Date:

10 February 2016 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

The Innocents See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

€6,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$127,112, 8 July 2016

Gross USA:

$1,063,893
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Anne Fontaine originally met with Agata Kulesza in Poland because she was an admirer of her work, but told her that she didn't wish to cast her as the Mother Superior since she thought her too sexy for the role. The actress laughed and asked the director if she could put on a veil and read an extract for a Polish work. Once she did, Fontaine decided to give her the part. See more »

Quotes

Maria: Dear Mathilde, the dark clouds have been hunted. We have here the sun in the sky. And you are in our hearts. Other wars may come. Other dangers threaten us, it will soon be difficult to write to us. But whatever our fate is, I feel ready to face it. I know, even if it makes you laugh, God sent you. Let him accompany you through the trials and that joy never misses you. Yours, Maria.
See more »

Soundtracks

On the Nature of Daylight
Written by Max Richter
Performed by Lorenz Dangel and Max Richter Orchestra
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User Reviews

 
Often bleak but also an uplifting experience
26 July 2016 | by howard.schumannSee all my reviews

According to military historian Antony Beevor, "The subject of the Red Army's mass rapes in Germany and elsewhere has been so repressed in Russia that even today veterans refuse to acknowledge what really happened." A Soviet war correspondent said, "It was an army of rapists," and that Russian soldiers raped every female from eight to eighty. The scale of the rapes that took place is suggested by the fact that about two million women in Europe had illegal abortions every year between 1945 and 1948.

Anne Fontaine's ("Coco Before Chanel"), The Innocents (aka Agnus Dei) tells one personal story of the brutality of the "liberating" Red Army from the point of view of a young French doctor, Mathilde (Lou de Laage, "Breathe") caring for French soldiers at a nearby Red Cross hospital. Based on real events, recounted in notes by Madeleine Pauliac, a Red Cross doctor, Mathilde secretly takes time from her hospital duties to serve as a midwife for nuns at a Benedictine convent in Poland in 1945 that have become pregnant as a result of several visits by Russian soldiers. As the film opens, Mathilde is begged by the novice Teresa (Eliza Rycembel, "Carte Blanche") to come to the convent immediately to deliver the child of Sister Zofia (Anna Próchniak, "Warsaw '44"), who is near death.

At first reluctant, the doctor is moved by the pleas of the novice and quietly goes to the convent where she performs a C-section to remove the breech baby and save Sister Zofia's life. Shortly afterwards, another nun, Sister Anna (Katarzyna Dabrowska, "Król zycia"), collapses and the truth is revealed to her that the nuns were subjected to the assaults by Russian soldiers who came to the convent on three separate occasions resulting in the pregnancy of six nuns and one novice. Giving assistance to the Abbess (Agata Kulesza, "Ida") and her young assistant Maria (Agata Buzek, "Redemption"), the French doctor is sworn to secrecy to prevent the nuns' pregnancy from becoming a blemish on the reputation of the convent.

The ordeal is a test for the nuns' religious faith who must deal with the fear that they will be punished by God for failing to live up to their vow of chastity and Mathilde comes to respect that many of the nuns uphold their beliefs, even though many believe that God has abandoned them. More reflective than others, Polish actress Buzek is remarkable as Maria, a complex nun who admits that being a nun in these circumstances feels like "twenty-four hours of doubt for one minute of hope." When Mathilde has her own close encounter with Russian soldiers who try to rape her at a roadblock, her bond with the nuns rises to a new level of empathy.

Though she was raised by Communist parents and is a non-believer, Mathilde develops a close relationship with the nuns and is moved by their devotional chants and returns to the convent each night to deliver the children of the remaining nuns. The Abbess tells Mathilde that the babies are taken to a sympathetic aunt but a deeper secret is hidden. A semi-love interest develops when Mathilde establishes a friendship with Jewish doctor Samuel (Vincent Macaigne, "Two Friends"), her medical supervisor who joins her at the convent to deliver the remaining babies and their engaging conversations are the film's only light note.

The Innocents is a heartbreaking film that portrays a community that is helpless in the face of brutality and whose resolve is tested to the breaking point when a death occurs in the convent and the question of the disposition of the newborn children takes us to an unexpected dark place. Lou de Laage is outstanding as the sensitive doctor whose compassion for others allows her to thrive in an uncomfortable situation and whose quick thinking saves the nuns from another encounter with the Russians. Her performance succeeds because she is also one of the innocents, those who are willing to give of themselves to others without standing in judgment.

One is reminded of the words of Mother Teresa who said, "If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway." Though it is shot in darker hues and is often bleak, The Innocents is also an uplifting experience.


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