Audrey Diwan on her new film, Happening, based the 2000 memoir by celebrated French writer Annie Ernaux
April 18, 2022
Following in the footsteps of Cristian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and Eliza Hittman’s Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Audrey Diwan’s powerful period drama makes a devastating case for sexual and reproductive freedom.
Adapted from L’Événement, the 2000 memoir by celebrated French writer Annie Ernaux, Happening recounts the author’s desperate attempts to get an abortion when she was a promising young student in 1964, a decade before France legalised abortion in 1975.
An award-winning new drama tells the searing story of a young woman’s quest for an illegal abortion in 1960s France. Its director and the writer on whose autobiography it is based explain why the subject is still important
Sun 3 Apr 2022
In a library, in France, in the 1960s, a young woman glances over her shoulder before opening a textbook to inspect a cross-section of a pregnant female body. A succession of nested U shapes show the way the uterus expands as the foetus grows. The foetus looks like a lima bean with legs. Someone comes; the young woman shields the book from view.
“Before you could ask questions on the internet, everything that happened inside the body was a mystery,” says Audrey Diwan, the director of the film Happening, in which this scene appears early on. “Something is taking place inside her body, her body is doing this work, but she doesn’t understand anything about it.”
In the Sundance drama Happening, the hardest part of one woman’s unwanted pregnancy is managing everyone else’s expectations.
By Shirley Li
FEBRUARY 7, 2022
Anne Duchesne, the hero of the film Happening, is an intelligent and serious 23-year-old woman who knows what she wants. It’s 1963 in southwest France, and if her leering university classmates judge her, the daughter of a working-class family, for her literary ambitions and for hooking up with local men, so be it. Played by Anamaria Vartolomei, Anne is economical with her words and her friendships. She rarely switches up her wardrobe or hairstyle. And when she learns that she’s pregnant, she immediately asks her doctor to terminate it. “I’d like a child one day,” she says later, “but not instead of a life.”
Based on the acclaimed author Annie Ernaux’s semi-autobiographical novel, Happening follows Anne as she seeks an illegal abortion. The director, Audrey Diwan, doesn’t indulge in melodrama; she takes a measured and minimalist approach to the story, immersing the audience in Anne’s perspective.