THE INNOCENTS (De Uskyldige) – Redefining The Notion of Innocence

Norwegian writer and director Eskil Vogt’s most recent feature film The Innocents (De Uskyldige, 2021) from MER Film, which has made its world premiere at Cannes (Un Certain Regard), is shown on September 10th at the 27th Edition of the Etrange Festival (Paris), home of the uncanny, disturbing and of course “strange” films. The Norwegian feature is an important example among the European superhero / antihero cinema which seems to be in the monopoly of Marvel and DC (De Uskyldige proves that’s not the case). The Innocents deals with this genre on two different levels.

The first and most important difference is the fact that, instead of leaning on the cinematic appeal of superpowers and presenting, in Scorsese’s words, “an amusement park style” experience to the viewers, De Uskyldige tries (and achieves) to reflect the quite ordinary world of the children. The second distinction in Vogt’s approach is that he pulls the superheroes or the antiheroes out of the realm of the comic books and places them right in the middle of reality, just like Christopher Nolan did in his Dark Knight Trilogy or Todd Phillips in Joker.

Given that the main characters in Nolan’s or Phillips’ movies (Batman and Joker respectively) don’t have any superhuman powers, maybe it’s more adequate that their stories unwind under our atmosphere, so to speak. But when it comes to The Innocents, it’s definitely not the case. The kids, the four protagonists do have superpowers, but their adventure is presented successfully in a structure that can easily keep up with the Italian neorealist movement of the 1940s and 50s. Thus, the movie’s supernatural story gets ever more believable in the eyes of the viewers. In The Innocents, the superpowers are just a mere excuse to be able to show the essence of the story, which is about how cruel children’s world can sometimes be.

In the opening scene, a closeup of the “innocent face” of a child greets us. The scene that comes right after this shot determines the postulate of the movie: “How innocent are they, actually?”. Then we get to meet the main characters: Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum), her big sister with autism, Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad), their friend from their new neighborhood, Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim) and Ben (Sam Ashraf). The fact that these four children come together marks also the beginning of the discovery of their powers. Ben, who is potentially a psychopath since he tortured a cat becomes, under the influence of these extraordinary developments, some kind of a serial killer as his powers get stronger and stronger.

At one point, the girls had to join forces in order to stop Ben. There are some minor narrative repetitions after the second act where each character begins to know themselves, this part can be identified as “fun and games” according to Blake Snyder’s beat sheet[1]. During this part, even though the rhythm of the movie gears down a little bit, two occurrences; the emergence of Ben as a perfect antagonist and the fact that the girls decide to defeat him come into play and the narration is quickly back on its track. As byplay, themes like family, children and their relationship with their parents add a second and strong layer to the movie’s narrative. Unfortunately some logic errors or ellipses keep The Innocents from establishing itself as a masterpiece, though they’re not predominant.

Unfolding through a Norwegian summer, the whole adventure is presented with anamorphic lenses and golden hour lighting to create a smooth visual narrative. On the other hand, Eskil Vogt displays the aesthetics of horror successfully and beautifully in some sequences that are charged with suspense. The performances of the child actors are also very good, especially that of Alva Brynsmo Ramstad who does a marvelous job playing Anna.Another great performance comes from Rakel Lenora Fløttum as Ida, who delivers a dignified, exaggeration-free act as well. The Innocents got (and continues to get) screenings all over Europe and USA, we highly recommend it for the fans of the genre. Enjoy!

Beraat Gökkuş

Translation: H. Necmi Öztürk

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[1] Blake Snyder, “Save The Cat”, Michael Wiese Productions, 2005 (1st printing).

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