Lucile Hadžihalilović’s 2004 film, Innocence, is an ethereal masterpiece – relying on atmosphere, mood, and ambiguity to tell the story of a girl’s boarding school, where the new students arrive in coffins and there isn’t one male in sight.
It is a walled community in the midst of a beautiful and mysterious forest. The girls spend their days learning dance, playing in the river, and taking lessons from their science teacher. Some long for escape, while others would be content to stay forever. Within all of the beauty, something sinister and unknowable lurks beneath. Why are the girls here in the first place? Why the coffins? And what’s with the constant sound of machinery that echoes throughout the forest?
Hardly any of these questions will be answered, and therein lies the genius of the film. You’re not meant to understand the strange things that you will see and hear in Innocence. You must simply be present and step into the world that Hadžihalilović has lured you into. There is no solid conclusion. You take away from this film exactly what you “feel” while watching it. You drift through this film as you would in a dream, not knowing where it leads or how it may end – if it ever ends at all.
By the time it is over, you will know that you have seen something marvelous. Whatever that something is will be left entirely up to you. Innocence (not to be confused with the 2014 teen crap fest of the same name) is highly recommended.