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Tivoli Theatre Presents – After Hours Film Society – Happening
August 29 @ 7:30 pm
After Hours Film Society Presents
Aug 29 | 7:30 pm
CAST & CREW
Director: Audrey Diwan
Featuring: Anamaria Vartolomei
Rating: Not Rated
Runtime: 100 mins.
“A stunner. Director Audrey Diwan is going places.”
–Guy Lodge, Variety
“Magnificently written, directed, shot and performed.”
–Zhuo Ning Su, Awards Daily
“Harrowing, urgent and heroic.”
–David Rodney, The Hollywood Reporter
“A tense gripping thriller.”
–Xan Brooks, The Guardian
“Anamaria Vartolomei is flawless.”
–Stephanie Bunbury, Deadline
“It’s hard to think of a film more necessary in the current moment.”
–David Jenkins, Little White Lies
With the U.S. Supreme Court preparing to reverse Roe vs. Wade, the release of the award-winning French film Happening (L’événement) couldn’t be more on point.
The film has been accumulating awards and accolades on the festival circuit, including winning the Golden Lion for Best Film in 2021’s Venice Film Festival. It’s a personal story about a young woman who wants to have an abortion. Based on a memoir by French novelist Annie Ernaux, this spare, intimate film speaks to a time when backroom abortions were a woman’s only choice.
It’s 1963, Anne Duchesne (Anamaria Vartolomei) is a very smart, serious, focused student. Then she finds out that she’s pregnant. There’s no question for Anne. She wants to terminate the pregnancy.
But in France at that time, abortion was illegal. Her doctor won’t discuss it to any degree and warns her about the consequences of even considering it. Even a miscarriage that is suspected of being the result of abortion can land a woman and anyone who helped her in jail.
Anne looks for help but keeps hitting dead ends. Even her few closest friends, and the young man responsible, back away, leaving her alone. Suddenly the world — which once felt expansive and full of possibility — becomes narrow and claustrophobic. As the weeks tick by, Anne becomes increasingly isolated and stressed, but determined.
Happening is director Audrey Diwan’s second feature film and it’s impressive. She was nominated in the Best Director category by BAFTA, and for France’s César, where the film was also nominated for Best Film and Best Adapted Screenplay. It also won Best Film at France’s Lumière awards, among many others.
This is a heavy-duty topic but rather than lecture or make an angry or ideological film, Diwan works here with restrained and even slightly distant tone, focusing on the character of Anne and her determination to control her own life.
There’s not a lot of exposition. Anne is not a big talker, not overtly emotional. The film doesn’t delve deeply into the ins and outs of what she’s thinking. Instead, thanks to a well-thought-out script (Diwan co-wrote with Marcia Romano), Diwan’s careful direction, and Vartolomei’s strong performance, we understand the way the weight of the law affects this one woman.
Because the film is so spare, a lot of what we understand about Anne comes from Vartolomei’s powerful, internal performance. She’s quiet and controlled but at key moments, the beautifully calibrated performance gets at the emotions roiling under the surface. She won both the 2022 César for Best Female Newcomer, and the Lumière for Best Actress.
All this restraint makes for a quiet film, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t bite when it needs to. Anne knows her own mind and isn’t afraid to say what she thinks when it’s necessary. As well, Diwan doesn’t sensationalize, but still finds a way to portray the experience of backroom abortions in a way that isn’t overly dramatized, but still effective. There is one brief scene that some viewers might find graphic.
This is the story of Ernaux’s own experience in an era where the only option women who wanted to control choices over their own bodies and their lives was completely removed at the moment of conception. When the consequences were on the woman. When the law made it so that if she decided to end the pregnancy, she faced a costly procedure where her life and health was in the hands of a back-room abortionists. No anesthetic, no medical personnel standing by in case something went wrong. The way the film evokes all of this is one of the movie’s strengths.
Abortion is a hugely fraught topic, especially in the abstract. But ideals sometimes fall when someone is confronted with the realities of having to make decisions for themselves.
In the end, Happening is just about one ordinary young woman. And that is perhaps its biggest strength. The film keeps its distance, and never judges Anne. We’re observers here. Anne has made her own choice, for her own reasons.
DISCUSSION FOLLOWS EVERY FILM!
$7.00 Members | $11.00 Non-Members
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