CINEMA – Released on French screens in November 2021, The Eventa film adaptation of the eponymous novel by Annie Ernaux on a clandestine abortion that she experienced as a teenager, arrives this Friday, May 6 in dark rooms in the United States in a delicate context.
This Monday, May 2, the site Politico unveiled an unpublished 98-page document which tells us that the country’s Supreme Court is preparing to overturn the historic 1973 judgment in which it recognized the right to abortion. This article had the effect of a bombshell in Washington, the city from which Joe Biden called on Americans to vote in the next legislative elections to defend fundamental rights.
In France, the information did not go unnoticed, as evidenced by the reaction of the director of the feature film, Audrey Diwan, on her Twitter profile, this Tuesday, May 3. “Painful awakening this morning,” she wrote.
The Event earned him the prestigious Golden Lion at the last Venice Film Festival in September. Its story is that of the obstacle course of a student of letters (Anamaria Vartolomei) to have an abortion in the 1960s, a period in French history during which abortion was illegal.
Like the autobiographical novel from which it is inspired, the feature film addresses a range of cross-cutting issues, such as the freedom of women to dispose of their bodies or the desire to free themselves from social determinism. It is a strong and necessary film. However, funding it was no small feat.
“I was opposed to reasons that I understand, explains the filmmaker that we met, during the release in France in the fall. It’s only my second film. I choose a rather radical form. If we stick to the question of clandestine abortion, it scares the people who fund it. In addition, the actors are not very well known.”
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Audrey Diwan is the director of but you are crazy, a dramatic story published in 2019 about a case of cocaine poisoning in a family. In addition to a dense career as a journalist (Technikart, Stylist, Glamour) and acclaimed novels (The making of a lie), she is also behind the scripts for several films by Cédric Jimenez.
Faced with the first refusals, she remained lucid. “I have the impression that some have hidden behind these reasons, continues the director. I think, in truth, some people were against abortion.” It didn’t stop her. On the contrary. “Meeting these obstacles determined us [son producteur Edouard Weil et elle, NDLR] to make this film”, adds Audrey Diwan.
The reality of a path
In France, abortion has been authorized since the promulgation of the Veil law of January 17, 1975. In many countries abroad, it is prohibited. In others, it is questioned. In Poland, for example, the government has been tightening its laws on access to abortion for several years, to the point where it is almost prohibited in 2021. Before the publication of the document of Politico in the United States, the Supreme Court was already at arm wrestling with Texas, where a law now prohibits abortion as soon as the first beating of the embryo’s heart is perceptible.
The facts told in The Event may well be earlier, they resonate in the news. Reading the book had the effect of a revelation for Audrey Diwan. “The first shock was to measure the difference between an abortion as it is practiced today and a clandestine abortion, she confides. As there are few representations, I was one of those people who had badly imagined the reality of this path, its hardness, the loneliness.
His film transcribes it. Some scenes do not leave the possibility of looking away. “I see no reason to do so, comments the filmmaker. I have the impression that we question the harshness of the images only in certain places and with regard to certain subjects.”
She adds: “How many war restitution movies are violent and spare no detail? In the same way, I was asked why make a film about abortion when it was in the past. It’s the same analogy. Let’s say that next time to whoever proposes a film on the Second World War.
“Words are the nerves of change”
Judgment, fears, intrusive remarks, inappropriate behavior… The heroine faces the gaze of those around her, her friends, men, doctors and society, throughout the film. This look, “it has evolved”, according to Audrey Diwan, but there are still residues. One of them is measurable by one thing, she tells us: silence and shame.
Audrey Diwan herself had an abortion in her life. Saying it, formulating it, “it’s hard”, she concedes. When she went to the Venice festival, she was hesitant to talk about it openly, “so [qu’elle] worked for three years against silence”. “Something very insidious and unconscious persists,” she observes.
Freedom of speech is necessary. “Mentalities change from the moment we put words. Words are the nerve of change”, she maintains. The question concerns all of us.
“When people tell me that I made a women’s film on a women’s subject, I want to scream. It is out of the question for me to act on the idea that abortion is a women’s story. You don’t have a child alone, you don’t get pregnant alone. As this is not the case, I am not solely responsible for the path, for this decision. This is a subject that is not limited to the status of women. The event is shared.
See also on The HuffPost: In the United States, thousands of demonstrators march for the right to abortion