Director: Anne Fontaine
Writer: Pascal Bonitzer
Les Innocentes isn’t an easy film to watch, but it touches on something so honest and true and forgotten–and that is rape during and after wartime.
Rape and war go hand-in-hand. And, no, that doesn’t only apply to the “enemy,” whoever the “enemy” is to you. Every military is guilty of rape. But when we discuss the costs of war–the money, the resources, the life (all of which are important things to discuss)–we tend to skip over the heavy occurrence of rape.
It’s not surprising, given our overall cultural climate of rape acceptance and rape doubt. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who literally says, “Rape? Who cares?” But, that is in essence what we say when we doubt rape reports, blame the victim, worry about the impact a sentence will have on a convicted rapist’s well-being, and teach women from a young age that it is their duty to prevent rape.
Les Innocentes takes place in Poland post-WWII and is based on actual events. A female doctor with the French Red Cross is shown to a convent (in secret) where she finds at least seven nuns are pregnant. Months prior, Russian soldiers had invaded the convent and raped the nuns. As a result, many were pregnant and all were living in trauma.
The nuns ask the doctor to help with pre-natal care and deliver the babies when they’re due, but all in secret–if the local community found out nuns were pregnant it would be the end of the convent.
Besides being a film that meets the standards for a quality and good movie, it is important because it discusses an experience that is uniquely feminine. Men certainly are raped, and that is a vital topic for discussion. However, when women are raped a resulting pregnancy is something that seems to be only discussed in hushed voices, or in the context of ludicrous unscientific claims that a “true rape” won’t result in pregnancy.
This film accomplishes much in the way of storytelling, acting, directing, and costume. But for me, the most important part of this movie is that it brought out of the shadows a topic we can’t afford to ignore. War and rape travel together, and pregnancy certainly follows. It is dark and it continues today. Bringing that darkness to light, however, can help to change the culture and sever the ties that bind war and rape.