He has touched the sky thanks to his second film, winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and deservedly so. Based on the book of the same name by Annie Ernaux, ‘The Event’ portrays a young woman trying to have an abortion at a time when doing so was illegal in France – as in so many other places – even during the early stages of pregnancy, and in the meantime is overwhelming for several reasons: its effectiveness in delving into the psychology of the girl, its ability to generate harassing anguish in the viewer, and the eloquence with which it speaks of our present and even our future despite being set in the 60’s
What attracted you to the Annie Ernaux book that your film is based on?
When I read it I was furious, and I felt my heart sink. I myself had an abortion, and experienced the loneliness that the book describes. At that time abortion was no longer prohibited but, despite this, something prevented me from talking about my situation. Even today I feel qualms about doing it; even at this very moment, during this interview, I find it hard to break that taboo. Any woman who has an abortion is still expected to feel ashamed of it and remain silent. And that makes it clear how much work remains to be done.
‘The event’ is set in the 60s, but its scenery is not at all ‘retro’. Explain that aesthetic ambiguity.
I didn’t want the film to feel like a period drama, nor did I want the viewer to feel that clandestine abortions are a thing of the past. In supposedly civilized places like Texas or Poland, the voluntary interruption of pregnancy is practically prohibited, and even in countries where it is legal, its implementation is full of obstacles, such as conscientious objection among doctors and harassment of patients by doctors. far-right groups. The female body is the scene of a battle between those who defend equality and those who believe that some people have the right to oppress others.
His film is not sadistic or sensationalist, but it does include some images that can offend sensitivities. Did she ever think of doing without them?
No. I wanted the film to generate physical reactions, to make viewers fully understand what a clandestine abortion really means: the pain, the violence, the anguish, the loneliness. I wanted to make it clear what we force women to do when we criminalize abortion. As a result, some of the scenes in the film may be repulsive, but as I say, I find that an uplifting reaction.
Do you expect ‘The Event’ to fulfill a social function?
I’ve done it partly to change anti-abortionists’ minds, and I guess that makes me naive. I trust that, if you see it, you will understand that women do not abort because we do not like children, but because we feel that it is important to have them when we are ready to raise them and love them in the best conditions, and those conditions depend on factors such as age, income and future prospects. I know that some viewers get angry and indignant when they see it, and that others leave the theater swimming in a sea of doubts. That is what it is about, because I have made it to generate debate.
‘The Event’ inevitably brings to mind two other recent abortion movies, ‘4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days’ (2007) and ‘Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always’ (2020). Did he think of them when making it?
For just a moment I thought that, since there was already a film on the subject as brutal and masterful as ‘4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days’, perhaps there was no point in shooting another. But that argument is absurd. Hundreds of thousands of women have died as a result of clandestine abortions. Why do we think that one or two films about abortion are enough? Nobody questions that films about World War II continue to be made.
‘The event’ won the Golden Lion at the last Venice Film Festival, and the most recent editions of other major film festivals have also resulted in victories for films directed by women. Do you feel that this reflects a real change within the industry?
It is a real change, but insufficient. The industry is shaking off its mistrust of female directors, but has yet to ask itself other questions. What kind of films do women filmmakers have access to? How much female presence is there in other areas of the industry? In the past, doors have often seemed to open for us, only to close a short time later. We must continue fighting so that this does not happen again.
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