Zauberspiegel – A film with plenty of potential for discussion

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In a Norwegian high-rise settlement, four children discover while playing that they have special abilities: They can communicate with each other silently and manipulate the world around them.

But soon they don’t just use their newly gained powers for little jokes, but also start harming animals and other children.

Children can play an ambivalent role in horror films: when they are not grabbing a sickle themselves (as in the “Children of the Corn” series) or are the spawn of Satan (“The Omen” film series), then children will be often used as a gateway for evil forces or demons take possession of them – “Poltergeist”, “Insidious” and “Conjuring” send their regards. In these cases, children tend to be passive actors in what is happening and often play the victim role. Director David Yarovesky and producer James Gunn chose a new approach for the extremely watchable horror superhero film “Brightburn – Son of Darkness” from 2019: In this, the principle of the good superhero is turned inside out by a young boy equipped with supernatural powers and this is not used for good, but causes horror and terror.

It is precisely this tradition that Eskil Vogt follows with his film “The Innocents”: In it, children of elementary school age develop supernatural powers and start out with all sorts of practical jokes: when earthworms are trampled on or anthills are intentionally destroyed with a stone, one still likes it as childish Dismiss cockiness, at the latest when the children torture a cat to death, you as a viewer get a queasy feeling and the quite drastically portrayed scenes almost take your breath away. But soon the children’s destructiveness is not only directed at the animal kingdom, but also at their fellow human beings – the director uses the moral dilemma in which the audience finds itself very skilfully for his production: On the one hand they are repugnant and morally reprehensible in every way, on the other hand the perpetrators are children under the age of ten.

In order for this dichotomy to actually work and have the intended effect on the audience, you need not only a focused staging but above all suitable actors and here the casting for “The Innocents” showed a really lucky hand, because the young actors Rakel Lenora Fløttum (Ida) , Alva Brynsmo Ramstad (Anna), Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim (Aisha) and Sam Ashraf (Ben) act absolutely phenomenally and, despite their young age, are able to set theatrical accents and give their roles an appropriate depth.

All four an absolute stroke of luck! This can at least make up for the biggest weakness of “The Innocents”, because at almost two hours the film is simply too long, the fundamentally very interesting premise does not last the entire running time, which is why the finale in particular is a bit long.

After the controversial film experience “The Innocents”, the possible misconduct of one’s own offspring seems comparatively harmless. “Chronicle” hits “Brightburn” with a pinch of “Firestarter” only a hint grimmer: Eskil Vogt’s “The Innocents” knows with its exciting (and quite controversial) premise, the calm staging and the excellent young actors is convincing but all in all a bit too long.

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