Movie Review by Kris Griffiths
Starring: Julia Blake, Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell, Kristien Van Pellicom, Kenny Aernouts, Terry Norris
Director: Paul Cox
“I’ve always made films no one wants to see,” declares Paul Cox – writer and director of INNOCENCE – at a recent film festival. True to his word, in this movie we are treated to the sight of a man and a woman in their late sixties having sex. But after spluttering popcorn everywhere and looking swiftly away from the screen, the rewards are soon reaped for seeing out the rest of the film rather than hotfooting it to the exit.
Living in Australia, retired organist Andreas discovers that his first true love, Claire, is living in the same city and writes her a letter. With her seventieth birthday just round the corner, she has been trapped for most of her later life in a marriage devoid of love and, for the last twenty years, sex. As for the widowed Andreas, he hasn’t had any action for thirty years. She reluctantly agrees to meet him, knowing the inevitable will happen. Half a century after the first teenage fling, their mutual love and lust is rekindled and after the first ‘date’ they head straight for the bedroom.
Deprived for so long, Claire unsurprisingly can’t get enough of it and they embark on an affair as passionate as their first, knowing that the clock is ticking. Her husband, however, is none too pleased when he finds out what she’s been up to but it unfolds that his lack of loving is partly to blame for it all. Despite his efforts to obstruct the bizarre set-up, the affair carries on regardless of the consequences that will end it naturally.
INNOCENCE is a tragicomic triumph in every way. Its humour is not foisted upon us with scripted gags but through the natural innocence of the sixty-somethings ensnared by the power of their own hearts. Likewise, its tragic power uncoils with the natural winding down of their lives. This dual dramatic quality can be epitomized in the scene where the son asks his father where mum is: “She’s with her lover,” he replies dejectedly. The poor cuckolded old man elicits pity as well as laughter – he even smiles himself after uttering such words. When Claire confesses herself a few scenes earlier, he laughs heartily at the thought of her committing adultery at her age and we follow suit because we’ve seen her at it. This is dramatic irony at its most ironic.
“Let’s do this like adults,” Claire says before she and Andreas first strip each other naked, “close the curtains and we’ll both close our eyes”. He replies, “I’ve got some of those aeroplane blindfolds if you want”. Such humour is required in the circumstances not only for them, the tentative participants, but for us, the unwilling spectators. From there onwards though, it’s all beautiful, albeit a bit slow. With the plot at its most basic, the ‘action’ starts plodding heavily towards its epilogue.
The only other minor criticism is the flashback overkill. At the outset we see the couple, young and pretty, enjoying a romance of the intense variety: sex indoors and out, incessant snogging at all other times, blubbering farewells at the train station etc. Nice to watch at the outset but the same snippets peppering the rest of the film become intrusive and annoying. Beneath it all, the modern-day drama is as plaintive and heart-warming as the music from Andreas’s organ.
The INNOCENCE verdict? Against the charge of bad taste Paul Cox is well and truly innocent, but for the indictment of making a magnificent movie, he is guilty as charged.