Material hauntings: The kinaesthesia of sound in Innocence (Hadzihalilovic, 2004)

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In interview, Lucile Hadzihalilovic has spoken of a desire to enable the viewer to enter a physical world by playing on sound and sensorial perception. Much criticism of Innocence, Hadzihalilovic's dark, elliptical fable of schoolgirls and enchanted forests, endeavors to unravel such aesthetic choices in light of the film's ambiguous focus on the bodies of children. Drawing attention to formal and diegetic motifs of subtle movement and acquiescence precisely through sonic elements of the film, this paper will re-examine the troubling issue of capturing innocence and the role sound plays in preventing the viewer from ever fully possessing the children of the film. At the heart of Innocence, there is a tension between the sound of moving bodies and the aurality of an object: a recurrently chiming clock ushers in the spectral image of little girls dancing. Yet, while the ballet moves rehearsed by the girls exemplify the physiological definition of the kinaesthetic the steady movement of limbs, joints and tendons it is the creation of a kinetic environ symbolized not only by the clock, but through various human and elemental sounds (breathing, whispering, gushing water, footsteps across grass) which emphasizes the girls' bodies as kinaesthetic presence. Sound thus preserves the fragile, yet infinite nature of innocence itself. Through foregrounding the intricate journey of the attentive ear in Innocence, both a new dimension of Hadzihalilovic's haunted materiality and its complex refiguring of physicality is brought into view.

Keywords: Innocence; Marks; Wedekind; aurality; haptics; kinaesthetic; materiality

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: King's College, London.

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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  • Studies in French Cinema is the only journal published in English devoted exclusively to French cinema, providing scholars, teachers and students from around the world with a consistent quality of academic investigation across the full breadth of the subject. Contributors scrutinise the cultural context of various works and the diverse stylistic approaches that infuse the visual fabric of this genre.
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