THE INNOCENTS — Review by Susan Granger

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In Warsaw, Poland, after the Soviet Union defeated Hitler’s Germany in W.W. II, it’s estimated that the occupying Russian troops raped 500,000 women and about 100,000 of them subsequently committed suicide. Working with several credited writers, director Anne Fontaine (“Coco Before Chanel,” “Gemma Bovary”) was inspired by the true story of Madeline Pauliac, a French doctor and Resistance fighter, who helped a group of Polish nuns, most of them virgins, who were convinced that their ordeal has doomed them to eternal damnation. Read on…

Their story begins in December, 1945, when Teresa (Eliza Rycembel), a novice Benedictine nun, begs French Red Cross doctor Mathilde Beaulieu (Lou de Laage) for assistance.

Returning to the convent, she is severely reprimanded by the steely Mother Abbess (Agata Kulesza) and French-speaking Sister Maria (Agata Buzek) for revealing their shameful secret to a stranger.

As the psychological drama unfolds, Dr. Beaulieu learns that, on three separate occasions, Russian soldiers brutally raped the nuns, leaving six of them and one novice pregnant. Since their behavior is dictated by the strict rituals of their order, this insular religious community has become devastated not only by the atrocities but also by repercussions that might tarnish the convent’s reputation.

And once, when driving back to the Red Cross base through the snow-covered forest, Dr. Beaulieu is ominously accosted at a Soviet checkpoint.

Dr. Beauliu’s life is further complicated by her relationship with Dr. Samuel (Vincent Macaigne), a Jewish physician whose parents died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. He ends up assisting the hesitant nuns who are under oath not to allow their bodies to be exposed or touched.

Working with cinematographer Caroline Champetier, Fontaine displays incredible sensitivity to the scandalous situation, particularly the anguish of Mother Superior’s syphilis and Sister Maria’s intricate worldliness (she wasn’t a virgin when she took her vow of chastity).

In French, Russian and Polish with English subtitles, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Innocents” is a starkly desolate, yet compassionate 7 with timely relevance for women today.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.