"The Innocents" follows Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum), Anna (Alia Brysma Ramstad), Ben (Sam Ashraf) and Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bemseth Asheim), four children, who become friends during the summer holidays. Out of sight of the adults, they discover they've hidden powers. While exploring their newfound abilities in the nearby forests and playgrounds, their innocent play takes a dark turn and strange things begin to happen. During the bright Nordic summer, the group of children reveal their dark and mysterious powers when the adults aren’t looking.
The kids in "The Innocents" are ages 7 to 11, it's a special period of childhood? When you get to 12, you’re already like a tween and have one foot in the teenage years and discovering your sexuality. The film wants to look at childhood as a place before you become an adult, when it’s more fluid, more magical. When you've kids of your own, you being witness to their fumbling attempts to make sense of the world. That triggers some childhood memories in ourself. Not important memories, just random memories, and we realize how radically different you were as a kid, how strongly you felt, and how open you were and even how you experience time in a different way. The film tries to get into that space. It's also the fascination you've when you observe your kids, especially when they don't know you're there.
Like you're going to school to pick them up, and you see them before they see you, and they're not like they're with you, they've a secret life. It’s hard for adults to really have that child-like approach. We try to tap into that personally. We learn from our kids. And we try to remember what it was like in the places we grew up. We remember a feeling of walking down those corridors or being in a forest. It's easy to remember childhood in a very nostalgic way, as though it was always a happy time, but it's also a very scary time because there are so many unknowns. There's so much you don't know and you've such an amazing fantasy imagination. Those things feel real, so we've never been as scared as an adult as we were as a child. And what that revealed of their imaginations and their inner worlds enriched the film in many ways.
Kids are beyond good and evil or rather before good and evil. But we don't think children are little angels, that people are born pure. We think children are born without any sense of empathy or morals, we've to teach them that. That's why we think it's interesting to see a child doing something that we would call evil in an adult. The moral aspect is more complex since they aren’t fully formed yet. It’s not necessarily a danger sign, kids are experimenting when they're young and empathy evolves in different rhythms. Morality begins with your parents saying what's wrong and right, but a real sense of morality should be grounded inside you, it’s what you feel is wrong. And to discover that inner moral compass you've to experiment, you've to transgress what your parents tell you is acceptable behavior.
It's those details, a hand picking at a scab, touching a grain of sand with your finger, that might trigger your own memories from childhood. The film enjoys the juxtaposition of the close ups and wide shots. Usually in scary movies you try to keep the tones down, almost black and white, and you've the shadows of darkness and white skin tones. Because it’s set in a summer, the film avoids some of the scared-of-the-dark horror cliches. It's inspired by Katsuhiro Otomo. Horror movies need to be visual and it's liberating to go in that direction because you need to have visual storytelling, you need to have iconic images, you need all that to work.