The Innocents – The Uskyltige (2021)
Directed by: Eskil Vogt | 117 minutes | drama, fantasy | Actors: Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Sam Ashraf, Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Morten Svartveit, Kadra Yusuf, Lisa Tønne, Irina Eidsvold Tøien, Marius Kolbenstvedt, Kim Atlegiten, Nor Erik Vaagland Nordgersen Georg Grøttjord-Glenne
What if you cut off the oxygen supply to eighties nostalgia in “Stranger Things” (Matt & Ross Duffer, 2016) or filter out the most gratuitous violence and obscenity from “The Boys” (Eric Kripke, 2019)? In short, if you operate more subtly and realistically? Regardless of the genre, most likely you will get something Scandinavian. During a restlessly hot summer, Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum) moves with her parents and older sister Anna (Alva Brynsmo Ramstad) to a new apartment in a towering flat. Ida’s parents have their hands full with Anna, because she is autistic and has not spoken for years. Meanwhile, Ida tries to find her way around the playgrounds between the residential towers and in the nearby forest. There she meets Ben (Sam Ashraf). Immediately the misfits click. Then Ben shows how he can manipulate the trajectory of a falling rock with pure thoughts. To the supernatural mind, the body appears to be only a week’s shell.
Although ‘The Innocents’ is already Eskil Vogt’s second feature film, he is perhaps better known for his collaboration with Joachim Trier. Vogt co-wrote almost all screenplays for Trier’s films, including the Oslo trilogy with ‘The Worst Person in The World’ (2021) as the final piece. Everything about the collaboration between the two Norwegians breathes realistic drama. However, where the fascination for the paranormal comes from, it is immediately clear when you look at ‘Thelma’ (Joachim Trier, 2017) again. The film is basically about the burgeoning feelings of the title character for a fellow student, but in the background all kinds of supernatural forces are released.
The world of the children in ‘The Innocents’ is only slightly open to adults. They sometimes have the greatest difficulty articulating their feelings but also find it difficult to suppress them. The film posts almost naively: if supernatural gifts were commonplace, what about damaged people? They would be doomed. The fantasies of revenge hardly conceal the inner violence. After all, the crafty Ida and lonely Ben are worry children without the psychokinetic powers. In terms of attention, Ida feels disadvantaged by her sister and she can hardly bear this and Ben has many more X’s to his name. After seeing ‘The Innocents’ you will think twice about exclusionary behavior among children.
In film history, children have often been used frighteningly. ‘The Innocents’ is absolutely not innocent in its horror, especially the sound goes through marrow and bone. Furthermore, the overall tone resembles a social-realistic great-grandchild of director Jack Clayton’s 1961 British psychological horror classic of the same title. Everyday domestic drama takes center stage and the psychic abilities make things worse rather than better: not a blessing but a curse. Unfortunately, therein also lies the solution. From the lazy cinema chair, Stephen King looks on scornfully and in terms of family drama, Steven Spielberg will be quite proud of Vogt.
Towards the end, “The Innocents” loses momentum as if Vogt doesn’t quite know how to tame the monster he’s awakened. Also, it has long been a “shining” cliché that children are most receptive to the paranormal and adults especially like the stupid. And although the subtlety makes up for a lot, the plot developments in the realistic setting become a bit more unbelievable. Plus, there are some annoying loose ends. For example, the film just misses the boat to previously unexplored abysses and the otherwise fascinating fantasy about the importance of abnormalities passes too quickly over that one sweltering Norwegian summer.