Friday, February 24, 2006

Innocence (Hadzihalilovic, 2004)

Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Innocence is a film that playfully hints for two hours that it is about to explode into a great film only to fizzle towards the end when it cannot muster an ending powerful enough to justify the journey. There’s a lot about Innocence that works very well, particularly the mysterious set-up in which a young girl arrives at an isolated boarding school/dancing academy in a coffin with little idea of why she is there and when she will ever be allowed to leave. Any questions she asks are met with vague answers from the other girls who are watched over by various adult women who we are told have been punished because they once tried to leave as children. Each of the girls dresses in the purest of whites and wears ribbons in her hair that are color-coded to indicate her age in relation to the rest of the group. The eldest girl is the only one allowed to leave for any period of time, mysteriously walking off into the woods at night. Innocence has an otherworldly atmosphere that alternately calls to mind Suspiria, The Village and Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. Hadzihalilovic’s film is an exploration of the way in which women are often groomed for consumption and exploitation. Although the person sitting behind me found the film to be among the most bewildering they had ever seen, Hadzihalilovic is consistent in her themes and her message. What she does not do is make the point forcefully enough. There is a timidity to the film that does not match well with the ambition of its premise. In the end, it feels like a Catherine Breillat film without guts.



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