The IMDb Summary Of An Offbeat Boarding School Doesn't Even Come Close To It
Offbeat? This film is so far removed from offbeat, that previous films described as offbeat are marching in military step unison. Innocence is a gorgeous composition of thought, sound and beauty which is utterly compelling to watch but challenges the viewing audience to a hard fought internal battle, raising questions within the viewer, in a William Blake-ish "Songs Of Innocence, Songs Of Experience" manner.
Undoubtedly the cinematography is some of the most striking that has been put to film certainly this side of the millennium, as Hadzihalilovic manages to compose wonderful shots of serene beauty within a hidden sense of malice and darkness. His symbolic use of colours is highly key to the understanding of the events, themes and emotions and aids the viewer immensely in being able to 'try' (and I emphasis the word) and dissect the layers of thought provoking connotations on the nature of innocence.
It's not always the most comfortable film to be viewing, as certain IMDb reviewers would hasten to claim it has "pedophilic tendencies", but I fear they're somewhat missing the point of the entire film; yes it is often at times difficult to view, but there is a purpose. William Blakes collection of poems on innocence and experience charts the replacing of the former with the latter. He shows us how innocence cannot be appreciated til you are experienced, but how experience completely taints any notion of innocence, and the same is with this precise film. These unsettling moments for us are only so because of the experience which we possess and have learnt throughout our existence, to the girls they don't see the same sins, pitfalls and traps we do, to them they are merely acting on instinct, as children do, in an innocent, cares- of the world-free way.
Thus the film charts the fall of innocence from the elder girls at the hauntingly constructed boarding school, and the continuing of the cycle through metamorphic symbolism, the circle of young life. Although it does make me question the use of the word "film". If I had but one criticism of the film, for all its mesmerising viewing and original premise it comes across more as a case study in innocence rather than a fully fledged story. While undeniably engaging and engrossing it lacks a certain spark, becoming more concerned with the ideas than the progression of any one story, to the extent where the ideas will be ringing in your head for days afterwards, but lacking a sense of resolution. Innocence would be an impressive debut solely on the basis of bravery alone for tackling such a notion, and so effectively, but the hallmarking of this 'case study' comes in the directors striking use of colours, symbolism and cinematography which I personally believe to have been unsurpassed in the films I've seen of recent years. Although you have been warned, the film is an intense experience which will not set well with everyone, but given that you have now been warned, so it's not as if you can claim you were innocent of that.
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