It’s not often you find hidden gems under the large stockpile of films today, but when you do, it’s astonishingly satisfying. These days, we are in the Golden Age of superhero filmmaking, whether it be the countless Marvel films or the TV shows following in the footsteps of these concepts, either way, one thing is for sure, this generation of movies is obsessed with the idea of mysterious powers garnered by individuals. But there comes a problem with the overwhelming number of projects being produced each year that focus on said concepts, they become too formulaic and feel almost unattached from each other. The execution is beginning to lose its originality and not enough films are taking risks, so these films become the money-grubbing catalyst. Fortunately, a few projects have broken the formula and tread in a new direction. While they of course feature supernatural powers, it is the execution of said films that separate them from the rest. Films such as M. Night Shyamalan’s powerhouse film, Split, where the powers themselves are subtle yet frighteningly realistic, alter course from the usual route we have seen tenfold. And now, the Norwegian screenwriter Eskil Vogt takes a crack at the supernatural genre and veers from your habitual methods of execution. In his film, The Innocents (not to be confused with the 1961 horror classic The Innocents), we follow a group of four children who, when not accompanied by adults, perform potentially gruesome powers. But because of their developing minds, their ideology sometimes slips as they become more aware of their powers.
There are plenty of strengths protruding from this film, and it is remarkably refreshing to see great ideas executed properly. And because Vogt is mainly a screenwriter, credited for roughly 5 films including collaborations with Norwegian auteur Joachim Trier that have accredited a general liking, the films in which he directs invoke the correct tone and stray from dissonance. His script, for example, uses dialogue in an elegant yet realistic manner, giving characters convincing qualities for audiences to attach to. But what molds the foundation of the film and captivates is the performances, and since the narrative focuses primarily on the children for a majority of the screen time, it is astonishing how talented these children are. It is almost terrifying how convincing these actors are, as they traverse through the murky story, their raw talent propels the story into the brutally coarse atmosphere and tone the film materializes. It is rather difficult to pinpoint the child actor most compelling as all four actors play off each other fluidly for the entirety of the runtime. And even though this project writes a solid narrative, it’s the performances that truly carry the film. With such a small cast, the atmosphere feels significantly more intimate, allowing you to grasp the growth of the story rather than being distracted by deterrents.
And with the runtime skimming just under the 2-hour mark, I would say Vogt utilizes his time somewhat wisely, and although the pacing may feel a tad rushed in some areas, I can’t say it takes away from the climax or resolution in any way. But even with such a slight flaw, Vogt’s latest film is more than competent enough to slowly build claustrophobic tension within the runtime. In fact, the building of tension is so steady that it may feel hardly noticeable at first, but as the film progresses, the suspense creeps up on you in a taunting way. Like a piece of a symphony, this film takes a swift tonal switch to slowly crescendo its way to the point of combustion, but in the most subtle way possible. You’ll find yourself holding your breath, eagerly awaiting assurance. It’s incredible the craftsmanship this film holds, especially from the talented cinematographer, Sturla Brandth Grøvlen, who excellently crafts beautiful shots throughout the film. Her framing is stylish but never pretentious, and at no point in her work is used without purpose. Every shot possesses a motive, and because the film drains the color and opts for a grayer ambiance but highlights bright primary colors, it further captivates. What makes the film feel so special is the overall sense of purpose, you can actively tell Vogt is attempting to create a story with a definitive endpoint. In most films today, you’ll find that most lose their footing and distract themselves from their own story, but Vogt stands his ground, which pays off greatly.
Utlimately, Eskil Vogt’s The Innocents is one of the hidden gems of this year, featuring excellent craftsmanship as well as exceptional performances. It should also be said that Vogt takes genuine risks and isn’t afraid to take chances within his story which helps pave the way for better execution. Overall, this film is for those wanting a slow burn with an alluring payoff and conclusion to a well-constructed story. This film is of course not without its flaws, but the very few flaws that present themselves have little effect on the beauty evident within this film.