INTERVIEW – With “L’Événement”, Audrey Diwan brings to the screen the eponymous novel by Annie Ernaux, which recounts her clandestine abortion in France in the 1960s. Awarded the Golden Lion in Venice, this powerful film is released this Wednesday throughout France. The director confided in LCI.
Interview by Jérôme Vermelin –
What if 2021 was (finally) the year when women took control of French cinema? After Julia Ducournau, Palme d’Or in Cannes with Titanium, Audrey Diwan received the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in September for The event, his second film after but you are crazy in 2019. This adaptation of Annie Ernaux’s autobiographical novel, published in 2000, tells how the young Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei), a student from a modest background, decides to defy the law in order to have an abortion in 1963. Filmed with as much precision as sensitivity, this drama bordering on the thriller resonates in a surprising way with current events as its director confided to us.
Did you immediately want to adapt Annie Ernaux’s novel after reading it?
No, because I still need time to mature. Things have to take root in my imagination. That I feel a visceral necessity. I had read Annie Ernaux a lot, but I discovered this book late. When I had the abortion, I wanted to read on the subject and a close friend advised me. I measured the terrible distance that existed between a safe abortion and a clandestine abortion. And then I realized how little we project ourselves into this course. Little is known about its reality, the loneliness that is inherent in the subject. I was touched intellectually and I felt it physically too, this book. That’s certainly why he stayed.
You have opted for a radical, immersive staging. Was this the way for you to be as faithful as possible to the book?
While reading, I feel a form of intimate suspense that keeps me going throughout the reading and which means that you cannot put the book down until you have finished it. And I also feel this dimension of experience. So, my first desire in adapting it is not to tell the story in a linear way, but to see how we can tell it through the body. All I’m looking for, when I write and then when I format, is therefore to get out of a classic form. I wonder for example what is the right duration of a scene. If i tell you “Anne is in pain” and that Anamaria Vartolomei, my actress, shows that she is in pain, everyone can understand that. But if we manage to make this feeling last – and it’s very hard for an actress to hold the pain down to length – then we have a chance to transmit it to the viewer. It’s the same with pleasure and in my film, enjoyment is as important as illegal abortion, by the way. On the other hand, if we make the plan last too long, we enter into provocation. And that doesn’t interest me at all.
My heroine rises by the head while doing higher studies. And she is caught by the body which brings her back to her social condition
Sex education, seduction, schooling too… Is it all the condition of young women at that time that you wanted to tackle, beyond clandestine abortion?
It’s really my hope that the film goes beyond the abortion narrative because there are indeed a lot of other things that I find super important in the book. What you have just mentioned, but also the relationship to social class. Annie Ernaux, in her work, talks a lot about what it is to be a class defector. She is not just a young woman, she is a young woman from a proletarian background, the first generation to access higher education. It rises by the head. And she is caught up by the body which brings her back to her social condition. In the book, she writes moreover: “I got fat like a poor girl“. I understand what that means. When you don’t have the means, you abort clandestinely, putting your body and your life at risk. When you have the means, you change country and try to go to England. , where abortion was legal at the time.The relationship to freedom – and to coercion – is at the center of the film.The freedom to enjoy as well as the freedom to study.
A “sadly” topical film
Do you think that young spectators will be surprised to find out what the condition of women was in France such a short time ago?
There is so little time in France, knowing that it continues to happen like that in a number of countries. So yes, I expect people to be surprised because I myself was surprised reading the book. Me, I realized my deficit of representation, everything that I had not imagined on this course. And then it’s important because I think the discussion starts where the ignorance ends. So obviously, we are not at the end of our knowledge after seeing my film. But it solves a number of questions and it says a lot of things that people ignore.
The situation in Texas, for example, shows that the subject of the film is of absolute urgency …
I think the film is sadly topical. It was already when I started writing, but it was a lot less obvious to everyone because until now it was the problem of countries that are less central to the discussions, you know? We don’t often talk about Europe, for example. Whereas when I started to write, a lot happened in Poland with regard to abortion. There, it touches us and we begin to be afraid because it is close. Texas, of course, too.
Does a decline seem possible to you in a country like France?
I don’t play politics. But when I see what is happening in a number of countries, I don’t take anything for granted. And especially not the rights granted to women because they are only granted to us. Granted.
At the casting, Anamaria Vartolomei did not try to please me at all, I found that she already looked like the character
How did you choose your actress, Anamaria Vartolomei?
It is first and foremost a classic process, supported by casting director Elodie Demey, to whom I had given fairly precise criteria. First, I was looking for a young woman who had already made films because I knew that the camera would often be very close to her. She had to be able to forget the omnipresence of the camera and the cinematographer Laurent Tangy. It was necessary to tame that and continue to play with this accuracy which was important to me more than anything. I was looking for a simple game, not very demonstrative. With the frame 1:37, each emotion is increased a little tenfold in the image. A smirk can already seem like a huge smile. I wanted someone who conveys a lot of emotion while doing little. Anamaria has that. A presence. And then at the casting, she did not try to please me at all, I found that she already looked like the character. She had something determined, she was asking me questions. And then by listening to her ask me questions, I understood that she had a relation, to the meaning, to the text, to the semantics. However, camping a young woman who will one day become an author is also to find someone who knows how to speak texts.
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Like Julia Ducournau, Palme d’Or at Cannes with Titanium, you won the Golden Lion in Venice in your second film. Is it very, if not too early in a career?
I never asked myself the question in this way! I wonder what that will change in my journey. And what I see there in an obvious way is that I will gain freedom. But cinema is the freedom to do things.
And you already know what you are going to do next?
Yes. But it is still early to talk about it. I am laying the foundations for a project, maybe even two. It is an outline of reflection, but I already have clear desires.
>> The event by Audrey Diwan. With Anamaria Vartolomei, Kacey Mottet Klein, Sandrine Bonnaire, Pio Marmaï. 1h40. In theaters Wednesday.
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VIDEO – Audrey Diwan, director of “L’Événement”: “When it comes to women’s rights, nothing can be taken for granted”