Innocence review

This eerie debut from director Lucile Hadzihalilovic sustains its enigmatic spell long enough to bear comparison with classic tales of childhood such as Picnic At Hanging Rock. Based on a story by 19th-century author Frank Wedekind, it focuses on a girls’ boarding school hidden in a forest, seemingly outside of place and time, to which newcomers arrive in coffins. It isn’t clear why they’re there, but Hadzihalilovic peppers script and screen with the suggestion of skin-crawling secrets. Why does the ballet teacher weep over dinner? Where does the eldest girl go at night? What’s with the quirky curriculum? And who’s out there in the dark, spying on the girls’ ballet show? Unease is elegantly maintained, suspending the film between murky mystery, fantastical fairy tale and pre-adolescent metaphor. The Village should have been like this: mysterious, unnerving and lingering in its impact.

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