Les Innocentes

Les Innocentes

les_innocentes

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.

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Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Star Wars. How do I begin to write about Star Wars? How about with this:

First of all, I LOVED The Force Awakens. I have to admit I’m not a die hard Star Wars fan and find the original Star Wars only moderately interesting. I don’t think the writing or character development is that great and I never really got into them much. But The Force Awakens fills me with Nerd-topia and Hollywood thrill.

I should mention before continuing that this blog post is full of spoilers. Full! I am writing this for people who have seen the movie or don’t care about spoilers.

SPOILERS AHEAD

SPOILERS AHEAD

SPOILERS AHEAD

star-wars-force-awakens-official-posterWhile I did love this movie, I want to discuss a few disappointments before moving on to gushing about everything I loved.

First, why isn’t Leia a Jedi? That she isn’t a Jedi is a magnificent failure in story writing. Return of the Jedi completely sets it up so that Leia could become a Jedi as well as Luke, and yet about 30 years later, she still isn’t. The force is still strong in the Skywalker family whether she’s trained as a Jedi or not, thus her immediate knowledge of Han Solo’s death, but she still isn’t an actual Jedi.

A friend of mine used the above incident as fuel for the possibility that Leia is a Jedi, but the opening rollout and characters throughout the movie reference Luke as the last Jedi, thus Leia is definitely not a Jedi. I think this is a major missed opportunity on the part of the writers. There is absolutely no reason Leia shouldn’t be a trained Jedi. I guess we’ll see what the next movies bring to the storyline in regards to Leia and the force, nonetheless not writing Leia as a Jedi is, I think, a ridiculous departure from what Return of the Jedi left us.

I have heard a few people say that Leia isn’t a Jedi simply because Carrie Fisher wouldn’t be up to portraying a Jedi. To this I say bunk. In movies there are people whose job it is to be a stunt and/or body double. Movie Magic has ways to carry on the Silver Screen illusion regardless of the actor’s health or age.

Leia should be a Jedi, end of story.

Second, although this film is progressive in terms of female representation, it just isn’t as balanced as one would wish. There are bunch of side characters in this film, especially in terms of The Resistance and fighter pilots. I can’t recall there being any women in that group of fighter pilots. There were many pilots so my memory could be failing on that point, but even if there were one or two, there were enough men in that group that it drowned out the women. I recall flashes of women in uniform with the First Order, so it’s not a total loss. But I won’t be satisfied until your average movie has 50-50 gender ratio.

Third, it seemed a bit uninspired that once again the task of the resistance was to blow up a planet-sized ship that had the capability of destroying other planets. It wasn’t exactly the same, but I kept thinking that I’d already seen that conflict in the older Star Wars.

Now, onto the good stuff!

Let’s start with the obvious that Rey is on her way to becoming a Jedi! Not only that, she’s a fantastic character. Rey is smart, possibly a better pilot than Han Solo, has a good heart as far as I can tell thus far, and is strong enough in the force that she starts to figure it out before anyone tells her to use it.

One of my favorite moments was when the First Order comes to Jakku on the hunt for BB8 and Finn keeps grabbing Rey’s hand and running. Instead of going along with that tired movie detail, she yells, “Stop taking my hand!”

We’ve seen it time and again, the hunky hero rescuing the damsel in distress by grabbing her hand and running. Besides making no sense because it’s much harder to run holding hands, it’s also incredibly patronizing and overdone. I salute the writer who opted to point out the ridiculousness of this plot device in a high-profile release. So much love.

Rey had so many great moments:

Rey resisting Ben’s (I’m going to call him Ben) mind control and learning his deepest fear.

Rey summoning the Skywalker light saber, bypassing Ben’s summons.

Rey choosing to protect BB8 in lieu of using him for extra food portions.

Rey fixing (or rather, semi-fixing) the Millennium Falcon.

Rey beating the crap out of the goons who try to take BB8.

She’s a regular hero is Rey.

Another great character is Finn. Finn was raised to be a mindless, conformist Stormtrooper but makes the decision to leave the First Order. His journey to self-discovery is humorous, poignant, and adds an unthought of humanity to the faceless stormtroopers.

I have to give a shoutout to Maz Kanata. She is one voice of wisdom in the galaxy and I’m excited to see what else she brings to the table in future movies (I hope she’s not just a one-time character).

Han and Leia. Their story breaks my heart but their reunion really hit it home. I don’t want to imagine them being apart for so many years only to be reunited for a short time.

Leia is still a snarky and commanding leader while Han remains the haughty but lovable pilot. Besides the obvious devastating gap in their relationship, they are everything I could hope they’d be.

Overall, The Force Awakens is well-written, entertaining, makes you feel all the emotions, and leaves you hungry for more. I want to go see it again while it’s still in theaters. There is plenty more to say about it, but 1,000 words is probably enough for one movie.

But on a parting note, I have to say something about “Strong Female Characters.” Often people will tell me I should go see a movie because it stars a “Strong Female Character.” The problem with the SFC is it is still a trope and isn’t enough. I want parity in my stories and I want diversity in what female characters are allowed to be. Strong is a fine adjective. But if the only options for female characters are strong or a stand-in for a lamp, we still have a long way to go before film is granting women the opportunities we deserve.

Rey will likely be called a “Strong Female Character” and she certainly is that. But she is also lost and confused and uncertain and funny and brave and a whole host of other things. What makes a good character–male or female–is being well-developed. Having one “strong” female while the rest are absent or underwritten doesn’t solve the sexism that is in Hollywood. We need Rey but we need more of that kind of writing. One awesome female character amidst a sea of amazing male characters is a start, it isn’t the end.