Opening 5 Dec 2019
Ruth’s (Judith Hofmann) engagement comes to an end when her fiancé Andreas (Thomas Schüpbach) goes to prison for murdering his aunt for money; he claims innocence. Ruth also believes that he is innocent, to no avail. Now single, she marries Hanspeter (Christian Kaiser), whom she met at church where she sought solace. Life settles into a kind of normalcy and they have two daughters, Naomi and Alina. She works as a physician in a laboratory where monkeys are test objects. Then, 20 years later, Andreas is released from prison and arrives to remind Ruth of her past, which she begins to evaluate in a different light.
For 114 minutes we experience Ruth reeling among memories, acceptances and insecurity, all in a struggle to determine the pressure of innocence and guilt in her own life. What role is played by the church, which has its own guidelines for these situations? She spends time in the attic sorting through old documents and souvenirs. Does Hanspeter know anything about her past life? Is she guilty when she detaches the head of a monkey, only to sew it onto another monkey, all in the name of research for the good of mankind? Has she raised her daughter correctly, considering that Naomi (Naomi Schreiber) seeks unmarried sex in a tent in the woods? “Jesus loves you,” says the pastor, and attempts a hug, which she rejects, saying, “Leave me alone.” Does Andreas actually exist, either alive or dead or as a figment of her imagination? All is symbolic in one way or another and it is our job to sort possible references and reach an understanding. This happens in silence with no background music, although there were five songs in the list of credits. Where were they?
Perhaps one should watch the film more than once, just to get a hold on something, no matter how slight. This should be possible on television, as the ARTE TV channel was involved. Der Unschuldige played in at least 12 film festivals, including a premiere in Toronto and then in Hamburg, both in 2018. (Becky Tan)