Despite the obvious appropriateness of Audrey Diwan’s latest film given the ongoing debate around abortion in the United States today
, it was originally screened on 6 September 2021 at the Venice International Film Festival. And yet, that’s precisely where the magic of cinema lies. It can be relevant without meaning to be specifically so. I mean, a story about 1960s France where abortions weren’t legal will be generally relevant forever, but now seems like the perfect time to talk about it. Being a period film, Happening
presents a good contrast with today’s world and helps understand why the illegalization-of-abortion debate is definitely regressive politics.
or as it is originally titled, L’Evenement
follows a literature student in 1963 Paris. She is seemingly more promiscuous than her peers, who all avoid sex because of the possibility of getting pregnant. Abortions were illegal then and no doctors would entertain pleas from girls with unwanted pregnancies. Everyone either avoids sex or else makes the decision to become a housewife. There’s no middle ground. And in that world, our protagonist Anne Duchesne (Anamaria Vartolomei) finds out she’s become pregnant after a sexual encounter with a stranger at a party. Over a runtime of about 100 minutes, Happening
covers her struggle with getting help and sticking to her wish to not have the baby.
Yes, that’s the plot. There aren’t any significant subplots. So what, some of you may be asking, would be the point of watching Happening
? Well, the intention is to make the story of struggle accessible. There are harrowing scenes, one of them depicting a D.I.Y abortion, especially difficult to see, which helps understand the plight of women in a time when abortions were illegal.