Released 2021. Director: Eskil Vogt
THE INNOCENTS IS A MOVIE ABOUT CHILDREN, BUT IT'S NOT a movie for children. Parents will have a hard time trying to explain to their kids and hope they won’t try to imitate what they see.
This is because the kids in the movie do very bad things, sometimes to each other. Nine-year-old Ida and her family – mum, dad and older sister Anna who is autistic and mute – move to a new town. In the public housing block they now live, Ida befriends Ben, a boy of similar age who is eager to show off a few mind tricks. He drops a stone in midair and flicks it just by concentrating. Ida is delighted and Ben is thrilled to find a new friend. They’re too young to appreciate the power of telekinesis other than having some fun. Ida and Anna meet a young girl Aisha, who finds a connection with Anna as the two can read each other’s mind. Soon Anna is able to “speak” through Aisha. The four children form a supernatural bond that quickly turns into a series of nasty episodes before the Norwegian summer is over.
The Innocents takes place in the playground, at home and in a wooded area nearby. The kids’ friendship evolves from playtime to levels all together more intense and alarming. Their discovery of mental powers escalates from gleeful games and pranks to animal torture, bodily harm and eventually outright murder.
Behind these disturbing occurrences the movie opens the door to issues like childhood bullying, peer pressure, loyalty and ostracisation. The curiosity, mischief and bad behaviour among children is dialled up to a shocking criminal level. Ben, a bullied child himself, finds a way to retaliate or simply to vent his anger. Anything that happens to be within reach could become a weapon. A kitchen knife, a pot on the stove, splinters, rocks; even other unsuspecting adults can be manipulated to carry out their malicious deeds as the kids learn to master their uncanny and persuasive powers. No one is spared, including one mother subjected to a slow and painful death by her own child.
The parents have no idea what’s going on in their children’s little world. It's important to point out that director Eskil Vogt doesn’t suggest the parents do not care. They are busy, stressed and wrapped up in various concerns as providers. Even when they spend time with their children, the kids are unable or unwilling to tell the adults about what goes on among them, probably thinking the adults would not understand or believe in what they have to say.
And so the kids resolve the life-threatening situations on their own. In broad daylight, at a busy playground full of noisy kids running around, a battle in the fashion of good versus evil plays out completely oblivious to the adults. In the end, you could say the intent to protect (with help from other kids with similar powers) defeats the intent to harm.
The young actors are very good in their roles, in particular Rakel Lenora Flottum as Ida and Alva Brynsmo Ramstad as Anna. Eskil Vogt directs The Innocents not so much as a horror movie but day-to-day life seen through the eyes of children who are playful, frightened, lonely, angry and trying to figure out how to relate to one another.
Suspenseful and disturbing, The Innocents is a disquieting scary movie about kids pushing boundaries, to test how far they would go if no one holds them accountable for their actions. It’s a chilling tale of kids figuring out their own way and realising they’re no longer innocent.
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