×

The Innocent

John Schlesinger's "The Innocent" rings hollow, un-erusing both its top-drawer talent and compelling Berlin locations. Despite a close screen translation by Ian McEwan of his novel of intrigue, espionage, betrayal and love , pic lacks real drama. Name cast headed by Anthony Hopkins and Isabella Rossellini looks likely to attract auds only briefly.

With:
Maria - Isabella Rossellini
Bob Glass - Anthony Hopkins
Leonard Markham - Campbell Scott
Otto - Ronald Nitschke
Russell - Hart Bochner
MacNamee - James Grant
Cpt. Lofting - Jeremy Sinden
Black - Richard Durden
Lou - Corey Johnson
Piper - Richard Good
(English dialogue)

John Schlesinger’s “The Innocent” rings hollow, un-erusing both its top-drawer talent and compelling Berlin locations. Despite a close screen translation by Ian McEwan of his novel of intrigue, espionage, betrayal and love , pic lacks real drama. Name cast headed by Anthony Hopkins and Isabella Rossellini looks likely to attract auds only briefly.

Pic double world-preemed Sept. 16 in Berlin, with English and German-dubbed versions unspooling in separate locations.

A bespectacled Campbell Scott plays the central role of Leonard Markham, a young, naive and virginal British engineer sent to Berlin in 1955, at the height of the Cold War, for reasons he does not know. His commanding officer, Lofting (Jeremy Sinden, in a spunky perf), is warily cooperative with U.S. forces.

Lofting turns Markham over to Bob Glass (Hopkins), a CIA officer overseeing Operation Gold, a British-West German espionage project to intercept communications between East Germany and the Soviet Union.

Glass is a reserved type who repeatedly reiterates to Markham his own obsessions and the film’s dramatic crux: Everyone is a potential spy or informant, nothing and no one is as it seems. Glass’ mistrust extends to Maria (Rossellini), who picks up Markham in a dance hall and with whom he soon falls in love.

Having set the scene, both McEwan’s script and Schlesinger’s direction forge ahead to resolve the conflicts established in the first two reels. So intent is the film on its narrative purpose that it fails to build tension or suspense. The main characters develop no idiosyncrasies or even fleshed-out personalities that can later be debunked. When story threads are unexpectedly concluded, there’s no catharsis.

When Markham finally enters a secret tunnel dug by the allies deep under the Soviet sector to tap phone lines, the assignment is deftly finished using a pair of pliers — a weak resolution to the script’s setup of a delicate, top-secret mission, as well as Markham’s alleged talents as an engineer.

The Maria-Markham love story satisfies even less, especially in light of Schlesinger’s usual sure hand in portraying relationships. Rossellini’s Maria comes across unevenly, with abrupt character shifts. The shocking murder that climaxes their story in the novel is stripped of passion in the film, as it’s unclear what the lovers mean to one another.

Bookending the film with scenes of the Berlin Wall’s fall seems a gratuitous touch, with a bathetic ending of the lovers reuniting 34 years later.

Performances in the pic are mostly understated, with Hopkins’ Glass muted and one-dimensional, a character who’s never allowed to penetrate into the story’s foreground. As Markham, Scott carries the film well but gets no chance to fill out his role.

Dietrich Lohmann’s lensing is fluid and assured, eloquently using many eastern Berlin locations that convey the menacing atmosphere of postwar Germany. Well-cast supporting roles, many played by native Germans, help to buoy an otherwise bland film.

Popular on Variety

The Innocent

British-German

Production: A Jugendfilm (Germany) release of a Lakehart/Sievernich-Film/Defa Studios Babelsberg production in association with Film Kredit Treuhand, Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen. (Intl. sales: World Film Inc.) Produced by Norma Heyman, Chris Sievernich, Wieland Schulz-Keil. Executive producer, Ann Dubinet. Directed by John Schlesinger. Screenplay, Ian McEwan, based on his novel.

Crew: Camera (Eastmancolor), Dietrich Lohmann; editor, Richard Marden; music, Gerald Gouriet; production design, Luciana Arrighi; costume design, Ingrid Zore; sound (Dolby), Axel Arft; assistant director, David Tringham; casting, Noel Davis, Jeremy Zimmerman. Reviewed at Astra Cinema, Royal Air Force Base, Gatow, Berlin, Sept. 16, 1993. Running time: 107 min.

With: Maria - Isabella Rossellini
Bob Glass - Anthony Hopkins
Leonard Markham - Campbell Scott
Otto - Ronald Nitschke
Russell - Hart Bochner
MacNamee - James Grant
Cpt. Lofting - Jeremy Sinden
Black - Richard Durden
Lou - Corey Johnson
Piper - Richard Good
(English dialogue)

More Film

  • Leonardo Dicaprio Once Upon a Time

    Leonardo DiCaprio's Earth Alliance Commits $5 Million to Amazon Fires

    Earth Alliance, an environmental initiative backed by Leonardo DiCaprio, has committed $5 million toward the preservation of the Amazon rain forest following an alarming surge in wildfires. After launching Sunday, the organization’s emergency Amazon Forest Fund is working to support local partners and indigenous communities in their efforts to protect the sensitive habitats within the [...]

  • (from left) Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson)

    Box Office: 'Hobbs & Shaw' Scores $102 Million Debut in China, Nears $600 Million Globally

    Universal’s “Hobbs & Shaw” returned to first place on the international box office charts, thanks to a massive $102 million debut in China. The “Fast & Furious” spinoff, starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, collected another $120 million overseas, boosting its foreign tally to $441 million. “Hobbs & Shaw” is nearing the $600 million mark [...]

  • Angel Has Fallen

    Box Office: 'Angel Has Fallen' Rises to No. 1 With $21 Million Debut

    “Angel Has Fallen,” the third chapter in Lionsgate and Millenium’s action franchise starring Gerard Butler, had a stronger opening weekend than expected, collecting $21.25 million during its first three days of release. Those ticket sales were enough to top domestic box office charts, bumping last weekend’s champ, Universal’s comedy “Good Boys,” to second place. Starring [...]

  • Amanda

    ‘Amanda’ Takes Home Best Int’l Film at 15th Sanfic

    SANTIAGO, Chile    French director Mikhael Hers’ “Amanda” scooped up the Best Int’l Film award Saturday (Aug. 24) at the 15th Santiago Int’l Film Fest (Sanfic), which reported a 20% audience uptick in the past two years and continues to grow its reputation as the most vibrant and prominent film festival in Latin America’s Southern [...]

  • disney d23

    Cruella, Kit Harington and Black Panther's Return: Everything We Learned at D23 Day Two

    Not to be outdone by the avalanche of series orders and casting announcements bolstering the new streaming series Disney Plus, Walt Disney Studios showed off its film wares in a marathon presentation at D23 on Saturday. The Anaheim, Calif. expo brought star power, if perhaps fewer surprises than Friday’s presentation, as fans in princess and [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift'The

    Taylor Swift Downplays Association With Harvey Weinstein

    Taylor Swift’s association with disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was among the topics the singer addressed in a revealing new interview with The Guardian. Weinstein held producer credits for the movies “One Chance” and “The Giver,” both of which featured Swift — in the former, a song, and in the latter, a supporting role. She [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content