Innocence (Lucile Hadzihalilovic, 2004)

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Michael
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:09 pm

Innocence (Lucile Hadzihalilovic, 2004)

#1 Post by Michael » Sun Aug 10, 2008 12:24 pm

A little girl enters an all-girl school - an almost mythical Suspiria-ish castle complete with spooky underground tunnels and a majestic stage that evokes the mood very similiar to Club Silencio - in a coffin with a starburst, locked inside and dark like a womb, the girls opens the coffin as if giving birth to the little girl. The little girl then gets immersed into the very bizarre world, being lead by other girls, all wearing the same white dresses. The girls are divided by the colors of the velvet ribbons holding their hair, each color representing the stage of their growth at the school. That's only the very beginning of the film. It also brings us further into the dense green-black forest lit only by trails of lamps hanging from where, I dont't know, we never get to see the sky. And over the ivy-choked walls standing like a moat around the castle lies a depressing, gloomy, scary lake in itself like a giant monster set to devour children. The girls dance through the passage of time, changing their color ribbons every stage. The ending is incredible - from the butterfly dance show lit in reflecting colors to the surreal subway ride to the cathartic water fountain in Paris.

I love this film so much. It's pure cinematic joy and magic. It's a voyage. A dream world. Anyone seen this?

I have to add that my experience of watching Innocence was amplified by being buzzed from sipping some elderflower liqueur I got for my birthday. At times, the girls seemed to skip right out of the screen! The colors are so luminously saturated and rich.

PS I tremendously enjoyed the interviews with director Hadzihalilovic. I wish she's making more films. Even though Innocence is her only film, she has already made a masterpiece.

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bigP
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2008 10:59 am
Location: Reading, UK

#2 Post by bigP » Sun Aug 10, 2008 1:52 pm

This is a beautiful film. I bought the Artificial Eye release a year or so ago, partly for my trust in the quality of thier catalogue being trustworthy for a blind buy (although image quality can be a little less reliable, although, Innocence looks damn near perfect to me) and partly for the quote on the front cover likening the film to the books of Angela Carter who I greatly admire.

The film carries Carter's dream-like sexual-awakening allegory in perfect pitch to the faux-documentary style of filming. Harking in particular to Carters 'The Company of Wolves' and it's exploration of Little Red Riding Hood as a girl taking her first steps into woman-hood and sexuality, Hadzihalilovic explores those themes with amazing depth and tenderness. Instead of teaching the girls to fear the men (as Granny Lansbury does in Neil Jordans adaptation of Company...), the girls are moulded into savvy young ladies, ready to approach the world outside those walls and deal with their oncoming sexual awareness, as if Rosaleen in Comany of Wolves had not been taught to fear and hate before setting out alone and unprepared in the world, but instead to form an understanding that women share men's lust, and both sexes can reach a beautiful unity (found in the penultimate shot of Innocence).

I didn't so much see the coffin as a womb, more as the confined world of the attatchment Iris had to her parents as the source of all that is and will be. As the coffin opened, her developing mind was also now opened to a world outside of her parent's, she was ready to develop her own opinion and reasoning, allow new adults to provide information the previous adults in her life may not have, and more importantly, develop concepts of friendship, trust, love and loss. Some of the girls aren't ready to accept this new change in their mind or body and try to run away, others try to reach maturity to early, but it's those that accept the development; taking the confidence learned from dancing for an audience, from chrysalis to butterfly and taking that journey in the darkness underground (that they so feared whilst still in a development stage), that find enlightnement like a burst from a fountain.

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MichaelB
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#3 Post by MichaelB » Sun Aug 10, 2008 2:15 pm

Oh curses - in my intro to Second Run's Valerie and her Week of Wonders I said that apart from The Company of Wolves it hasn't had many obvious descendants, and Innocence should have been staring me in the face.

Not only had I seen it, but I even namechecked it in the draft of the unrecorded commentary that I was originally going to do for the ValerieDVD, but somehow forgot about it when cutting it down!

Incidentally, Innocence isn't Hadzihalilovic's only film - I've also seen the mini-feature La Bouche de Jean-Pierre, about a young girl's experience of child sexual abuse, though, as with Innocence, I recall it being shot so obliquely that this is far from obvious.

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Zazou dans le Metro
Joined: Wed Jan 02, 2008 10:01 am
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#4 Post by Zazou dans le Metro » Sun Aug 10, 2008 2:24 pm

Count me in as a huge fan of this film. I saw it on the big screen and was full of admiration not only for the luminous use of natural light which renders the images with an almost illustrative intensity but also of the assurance of the choreography of the shots. Perhaps above all these concerns is the fact that as a debutante she can certainly give a few old timers a run for their money when it comes to creating a purely cinematic experience from a literary source.

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bigP
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2008 10:59 am
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#5 Post by bigP » Sun Aug 10, 2008 2:42 pm

MichaelB wrote:Oh curses - in my intro to Second Run's Valerie and her Week of Wonders I said that apart from The Company of Wolves it hasn't had many obvious descendants, and Innocence should have been staring me in the face.

Not only had I seen it, but I even namechecked it in the draft of the unrecorded commentary that I was originally going to do for the ValerieDVD, but somehow forgot about it when cutting it down!
Well, I for one am still very much looking forward to hearing your intro to Valerie and her Week of Wonders, though I have to admit, I know next to nothing of Valerie..., but in mentioning that it was a fitting precursor to The Company of Wolves and Innocence I am completely sold.

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MichaelB
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#6 Post by MichaelB » Sun Aug 10, 2008 3:08 pm

bigP wrote:but in mentioning that it was a fitting precursor to The Company of Wolves and Innocence I am completely sold.
I can't imagine anyone disagreeing with that!

Have you seen the trailer?

(And here's the trailer for Innocence, just to steer things back on-topic!)

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re:

#7 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Feb 22, 2021 8:57 pm

MichaelB wrote:
Sun Aug 10, 2008 2:15 pm
Incidentally, Innocence isn't Hadzihalilovic's only film - I've also seen the mini-feature La Bouche de Jean-Pierre, about a young girl's experience of child sexual abuse, though, as with Innocence, I recall it being shot so obliquely that this is far from obvious.
I finally caught up with La Bouche de Jean-Pierre, and holy hell, this is an extremely acute portrait of depressing material that, as opposed to a lot of films (including most of her husband Noe's output), uses its provocative methods to conscientiously examine the subjective hell of a youth's position of powerlessness in all its forms: to physically escape or psychologically understand her surroundings. The exploitation goes hand in hand with compassion, which is not an easy balance to access, but Hadzihalilovic manages to find it.

I've seen a few of Hadzihalilovic's shorts, which are successful to varying degrees. Good Boys Use Condoms is a pornographic ad that is somewhat funny in theory but rotten in practice. I didn't care much for Nectar either, but Nature was an excellent encapsulation of the innocent euphoria from youth embracing nature in the summer- so basically the antithesis of La Bouche de Jean-Pierre's grimy indoor isolated nightmare resigned to the mundane. Has anyone seen her other, more recent feature, Evolution?

And because I didn't realize this film had a thread, I'll post my writeup that I put in the horror list thread, just to add something meaningful to the actual thread about the film:
therewillbeblus wrote:
Fri Nov 27, 2020 3:46 am
Lucile Hadzihalilovic's Innocence is the scariest movie I've seen in years, precisely because
SpoilerShow
right to the very end, we are left in the dark as much as the girls, whose mental imprisonment is far more dastardly than any physical restrictiveness.
There is so much detail that can signify subjective connotations, but these specifics also exist separately as disturbing enigmas. We are treated to the crippling feelings embedded in our own nostalgic memories of being young and curious without the ability to discover, to witness sights that are unclear and will remain as such without catharsis for decades, to be watched and praised by strangers, to cope with disappointment, lost in mystery over the fatalism of the adults in our lives as well as what's in store for ourselves, and so on and so forth. This is a film that brings me back to the real-life horrors of childhood through the limitations of perspective, and the confusing discord between delayed cognitions and emotions trying to comprehend the rapidly-evolving physiological developmental milestones, that trigger these new lines of thinking and feelings in turbulent psychological chaos. I wanted answers not because I'm incapable of appreciating the abstract, but to cure my own prepubescent self's desperate need for them. Hadzihalilovic's strategy at delivering what she does is riveting, challenging, and ultimately perfect for the tone and themes she's trying to strike, and boy she cut deep.

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swo17
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Re: Innocence (Lucile Hadzihalilovic, 2004)

#8 Post by swo17 » Mon Feb 22, 2021 9:04 pm

Évolution is very much worth seeing, possibly even for the sci-fi list

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denti alligator
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:36 pm
Location: "born in heaven, raised in hell"

Re: Innocence (Lucile Hadzihalilovic, 2004)

#9 Post by denti alligator » Mon Feb 22, 2021 9:32 pm

I don’t think anyone has mentioned this, but this film is an adaptation of the rather obscure Frank Wedekind (of Lulu plays fame) novella called Mine Ha-Ha, oder die körperliche Erziehung der Mädchen (Mine Ha-Ha, or the bodily education of girls). It‘s a genuinely creepy book, ostensibly a Schulroman (genre popular at the time) but it’s never quite clear what all the body-movement training is for... Fantastic book and film.

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Innocence (Lucile Hadzihalilovic, 2004)

#10 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Feb 22, 2021 9:41 pm

Thanks swo, I should’ve guessed that based on the title- looks like I’ll get to it sooner rather than later.

denti alligator, I’m curious if the book helps inform the content of the film in any way? Naturally the mystery is part of what makes it so effective but it would be interesting if Hadzihalilovic deliberately excluded certain material to make the film more obscure (it’s a random example but I’ve been thinking of PTA’s removal of certain scenes in the adaptation of Inherent Vice lately and how destroying some key connective tissue also greatly aided the hazy confounding atmosphere that is far more important thematically, translated viscerally).

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Innocence (Lucile Hadzihalilovic, 2004)

#11 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Feb 23, 2021 2:18 am

swo17 wrote:
Mon Feb 22, 2021 9:04 pm
Évolution is very much worth seeing, possibly even for the sci-fi list
I liked this even if I didn't think it was even close to as good as innocence. I was naively surprised that this possessed a lot of the same DNA from that earlier feature, down to a similar mysterious premise, though Évolution went in a more expected and resolved route based on the information we had, which is not to say that it all adds up!

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denti alligator
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:36 pm
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Re: Innocence (Lucile Hadzihalilovic, 2004)

#12 Post by denti alligator » Wed Feb 24, 2021 12:01 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Feb 22, 2021 9:41 pm
Thanks swo, I should’ve guessed that based on the title- looks like I’ll get to it sooner rather than later.

denti alligator, I’m curious if the book helps inform the content of the film in any way? Naturally the mystery is part of what makes it so effective but it would be interesting if Hadzihalilovic deliberately excluded certain material to make the film more obscure (it’s a random example but I’ve been thinking of PTA’s removal of certain scenes in the adaptation of Inherent Vice lately and how destroying some key connective tissue also greatly aided the hazy confounding atmosphere that is far more important thematically, translated viscerally).
It‘s been well over a decade since I saw the film or read the book, but I don‘t recall anything jumping out at me. Actually, it‘s hard for me to separate the two in my mind, so I‘m probably a bad judge of this. I believe the book has been translated, if you don‘t know German. Surprising, since it‘s really somewhat obscure for a major writer. There‘s no in-print edition that I know of in German, for instance.

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