HAPPENING

Director: Audrey Diwan

Country: France

Year: 2021

Duration: 1.40

Languages: French / subtitled in Finnish

Original name: L'événement

Category: ,

Content warning: The film may shock or cause anxiety.

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France, 1963: Anne, student, gets pregnant from a fling. Abortions are illegal at that time. A pregnancy, though, would destroy the life ahead of this young woman from the lower middle class. Thus, she starts looking for somebody who can take care of the problem for her after having failed at it herself…

In some moments, Happening feels like a French post-war movie by a Communist director – and that’s no small praise, for that was a cinema of social commitment fierce, uncompromising and decidedly on the side of the oppressed. Then again: Audrey Diwan’s sparse realism is in its naked simplicity very much of the here and now – clearly framed images, carefully composed ellipses and a sharply precise acting, especially the delivery of the dialogues, cut in each and every second to the heart of the matter. In contrast to Annie Ernaux’s novel the film is based on, Diwan does it all sans class conscious raising pep talks – the subject is for once too general for partisan considerations.

In a most depressing fashion, the strength of the film is its sense of timelessness: This is something that can happen still everywhere – and if it’s not an abortion then it’s another event of life-changing magnitude that politics deem too touchy for a mere citizen to decide about. And even if it were about abortions and nothing but: A quick glance to Poland or the United States tell us how bad things still can be…

Audrey Diwan (born 1980) started out as a journalist for print media (ao. GlamourStylist) as well as television (Ça balance à Paris, Cinémas, La Quotidienne du cinéma) before becoming a screenwriter of admirable range best certified by the collaborations with her partner Cédric Jimenez, a specialist for politically charged thrillers: Paris Under Watch (Aux yeux de tous, 2012); The Connection (La French, 2014); The Man with the Iron Heart (HHhH, 2017); The Stronghold (BAC Nord, 2020). In 2019, she directed her first fiction feature, Losing It (Mais vous êtes fous). Up next is a new version of Maryath Rollet-Andriane’s erotic classic Emmanuelle (1959). (Olaf Möller)