I’d like to think we live in a pretty progressive world that values people’s choices, especially those that can have a major impact on our lives, such as abortion. But even to this day, in some countries it is still very much illegal to terminate a pregnancy.
Happening (L’ événement) is a French film, based on a book by Annie Ernaux which focuses on this issue, but is set over 50 years ago in the 1960s, and in some ways, we’ve made no progress at all.
Natural beauty Anamaria Vartikimei stars as Anna, a young student with prospects of attending university to become a writer. But after one night out, Anna finds herself pregnant and facing scrutiny from all directions, as she struggles with her situation and ultimately must find a solution.
Vartikimei is simply amazing as Anna. The inner torment and struggle is palpable, leaving you feeling for her as she struggles through this incredibly difficult period of her life. She is ultimately alone and is unable to share her secret with anyone, not even her friends. Anna receives no help from medical professionals, leaving her to taking matters into her own hands. I honestly felt for her so much. It truly broke my heart.
I really enjoyed the way the story was broken down into different weeks, allowing it to advance quickly through the journey Anna was on and keeping up the pace of the film. It was like chapters of a book, which makes sense given the source materials. I was glued to the screen, only finding myself flinching when things became intensely confronting, but even that didn’t detract from this film at all.
Another nice artistic touch that added to the feel of the film was the aspect ratio the film was presented in. Happening was filmed in a 4:3 ratio rather than the usual widescreen, which gave it a really cool vintage vibe, almost like you were watching an old VHS. I commend this choice as it really put me into the period.
Overall, Happening is a powerful film that I cannot fault. It pulls no punches yet is not afraid to present the grizzly truth of the past. While I’m thankful that France has legalised abortion since the late 70s, unfortunately this is still not the case for some first world countries (looking at you, America) and sadly women still struggle with these issues to this day. Again, truly heartbreaking.