Powerful New Movie The Innocents Confronts Ideologies of Evil That Threaten Human Life

By Jason Scott Jones Published on July 3, 2016

Have you ever found a book you wished you could turn into a movie — and make millions of people sit down and watch, till they understood? Well, I just had my fondest wish granted: The beautiful new film The Innocents, which opens across America, does that for my favorite book. It’s a moving and thought-provoking film, exquisitely filmed and sensitively acted, on the order of Schindler’s List. Salon just praised it, as did the Human Life Review. How often do those two agree? But on The Innocents, they do.

One of the most powerful moments in my development as a pro-life activist, and as a Christian, was reading Memory and Identity, a personal reflection by then-pope St. John Paul II. The book really is prophetic, in the sense not that it prognosticates the future, but rather that it speaks transcendent truth about the present, and tells us what we must do. In that book, John Paul recounts the brutal experiences of his youth in his native land, first under the Nazi then the Soviet occupation, and reflects on the false gods that drove hundreds of millions to kill and die and torture. (These are all themes I covered in depth in my recent book, The Race to Save Our Century.)

 

 

John Paul marks off as “ideologies of evil” first the racism and militarism that goaded the Nazis to murder millions of Jews, Gypsies and Slavs, and provoke a war that claimed the lives of 60 million. The convent depicted in The Innocents had indeed suffered under the heel of the Nazis, who regarded Poles, like other Slavs, as subhumans unworthy of culture — although some Polish universities existed a century before their counterparts in Germany, and the long list of brilliant Poles includes Chopin and Copernicus. In addition to the brutally targeted Jewish people, thousands of priests, nuns and other faithful Christians languished and died in concentration camps, which the Nazis set up mostly on Polish soil.

The next ideology of evil John Paul cites is the utopian collectivism of the Soviets and other Communists, who liquidated even more people than the Nazis did, via gulags and artificial famines. The inciting incident of The Innocents is a vicious series of attacks by victorious Soviet soldiers in 1945 on the helpless convent.

More than a million women in countries conquered by the Soviets that year were victims of rape, historians estimate — though we will never know for sure how many. For decades after the Second World War, the Soviets used brute force, economic pressure and networks of spies and infiltrators to destroy the free institutions of civil society — such as churches and schools, clubs and private charities. No such organizations could be permitted to exist outside the Party. The Communists might have been prescient there: It was such a free institution, the labor union Solidarity, which brought down the Soviet empire — with help from Pope John Paul II.

Finally, Pope John Paul points to the Culture of Death that rejects unborn children, the handicapped, the elderly, and leaves the vulnerable to be persecuted. This ideology, too, makes its appearance in The Innocents, in the most unexpected place. We learn from the sisters’ struggles with the aftermath of the Soviets’ assault that no one is immune to the subtle poison of despair that lies at the root of the Culture of Death.

I urge you to go out and see The Innocents, if it’s opening in your city. If it isn’t, please help my organization, Movie To Movement, which is working with the filmmakers to bring it to your community. Christians need to support such works, which remind us how fragile, beautiful and vulnerable each human life really is — and how infinitely precious and packed with opportunities for greatness and self-sacrifice.

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