At the heart of a densely wooded forest lies a mysterious girls' boarding school, cut off from the outside world by a great wall with no door. Within, a group of youngsters aged between seven and twelve gather round a small coffin, from which emerges a new pupil, six-year-old Iris. Led by the eldest girl, Bianca, Iris is introduced to this strange yet enchanting world of lamp-lit forest paths and eerie underground passageways, where there are no adults save for some elderly servants and two melancholy young teachers. But this haven is one from which the girls are forbidden to leave; those that do are never heard from again. Haunting and bizarre, filmmaker Lucile Hadzihalovic imbues Innocence with a fairytale-like sense of menace and images of surreal beauty, creating a mesemrising and timeless evocation of childhood.
A subterranean rumbling resonates in the heart of a forest. Hidden by foliage, a metal grate reveals underground passageways, which lead to the cellars of five houses scattered throughout a great park. The park is cut off from the outside world by a huge wall with no door. In one of these houses, a group of girls aged between seven and twelve gathers around a coffin. The coffin lid opens, revealing a six-year-old girl. Her name is Iris.
Bianca, the eldest of the group, introduces Iris into this strange but pleasant boarding school, home to some thirty little girls. There are no adults here, save for several old servants and two young teachers: Mademoiselle Edith and Mademoiselle Eva.
Iris very quickly discovers the rules of the school, where teaching centers on dance, physical education and biology. Obedience is paramount, and any boarder who would rebel and try to escape is condemned to remain in the park and serve the others forever.
Time passes and Iris grows accustomed to her new life. But she is troubled by a mystery: every evening at nine, when the lamps are lit, the subterranean rumbling returns and Bianca leaves the house to attend a secret meeting. One evening, Iris follows her to the big house where the teachers live. Inside, all seems deserted. Even Bianca appears to have vanished into thin air...