“Annie Colère”: finally a film that shows abortion as an act that relieves

“It’s political, tenderness”asserts the character of Laura Calamy in one of the final scenes ofAnnie Anger. We could not have better summed up the thesis of this deeply tender film, devoted to the practice of illegal abortions in France in the 1970s. In theaters since Wednesday, November 30, Annie Anger recounts a fight still little known by many French people: that of the Movement for Abortion and Contraceptive Freedom (MLAC)founded in 1973 with the aim of helping women to abort without risk, before the voluntary interruption of pregnancy (IVG) was legalized by the Veil law in 1975.

We follow Annie, a little politicized worker who appeals to the MLAC to end her pregnancy. After this experience, she will in turn engage in the movement, and learn herself to practicing Karman’s method. On this eminently political subject, Blandine Lenoir makes a powerful and luminous film about the power of the collective, contrary to most works on abortion.

liberated women

Annie, played by Laure Calamy, works in a mattress factory. When she goes to an MLAC office in the back room of a bookstore, she is fearful, anxious. With her, other women came here to find help after an unwanted pregnancy. One of them tells how, after a previous abortion, the doctors “treated as a slut”. Another wants to become a mother, but is considering an abortion, under pressure from her partner. Annie already has two dependent children and cannot have a third.

The scene is calm, focused on the impeccable performance of the actresses, and allows time for each testimony to slowly infuse. “I fought for this very long streak. Everyone said to me: ‘It’s too long, you’re going to scare people away'”explains director Blandine Lenoir. “It’s shocking, that’s for sure, but it’s a necessary word to hear, so that we don’t forget.” It is also one of the first moments of sorority in the film: the gentleness of the MLAC activists, their pedagogy and their benevolence are overwhelming.

“Abortion as a moment
going well, release,
of relief, that, we have never seen it, so it feels good.


Blandine Lenoir, director

A few days later, Annie and the other women met at the permanence find themselves in an apartment to have an abortion. At the end of the procedure, which took place quickly and without much pain, Annie burst into tears: “If I had known, I wouldn’t have been scared like that.” And we understand it. Even today, in France or elsewhere, the taboo and misinformation around abortion continue to intimidate many women.

In the field of fiction, with rare exceptions such as sweet comedy ObviousChildthe subject is often reserved for hard films – one thinks of the Palme d’or 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days by Cristian Mungiu–, which, according to Blandine Lenoir, “tell about clandestine abortion, so a sordid, dreadful abortion – something that absolutely has to be told, huh”. “But abortion as a moment that goes well, of liberation, of relief, that, we have never seen it, so it feels good.”

Tenderness, front and back
the camera

Over the course of the film, Annie becomes politicized and emancipated, intoxicated by the solidarity of the movement and the bond she weaves with other women. As Laure Calamy analyzes, “He’s someone who says to himself that ‘life is like that, I have to shit. If I have an abortion, it’s normal that I shit, I have to have children, have a husband, not open it too much”. And finally, by meeting this collective, by sharing and thinking, it will be like a cracking dam. Something which is there, in it, but which is not formulated at all. And then, all of a sudden, it’s going to be a surge.”

“For each actress, we saw that each time, it triggered a lot of emotions. It becomes noble subjects, which we talk about with an open heart.


Laura Calamy, actress

In the first abortion sequence, as in all those that will follow, we are struck by the delicacy of the characters between them, the softness of the light and the sobriety of the direction, never intrusive even when it films the faces as close as possible. . For Blandine Lenoir, the staging of tenderness was precisely the objective. “I asked the actresses not to take their eyes off each other, to touch each other without being intrusive, to speak in a low voice… I guided the gestures, for example, when Annie performs an abortion, I asked Indian Hair to put your hand on his back.”

Emulating the sisterhood and horizontality advocated by MLAC, Annie Anger is a choral film, carried by the collective talent of its cast: Laure Calamy joins India Hair, Zita Hanrot, Damien Chapelor singer Rosemary Standley –who, as Monique, uses a song to calm Annie down during the first abortion scene. The women who appear only furtively, meanwhile, are filmed and developed with the same care as the main characters, “so that we really meet them”.

An attention to the other which also spread within the film crew. Blandine Lenoir remembers how, during the filming, intimate conversations were launched between the extras, the actors, and the other members of the team. “It was very moving, they told their stories of bodies, abortions, rapes. There are many things that have been said, it did not stop.

Laure Calamy also describes a benevolent atmosphere, particularly charged with emotion during the abortion scenes (the film contains six in total): “For each actress, we saw that each time, it triggered a lot of emotions. It becomes noble subjects, which we talked about with open hearts without any problem. And then afterwards, we laughed a lot, because I still had panties full of pubic hair, so obviously I loved walking around in panties-pussy (laughs).

A hot topic

Annie Anger thus manages to play down a gesture which, even today, remains taboo. “I want to de-stigmatize the act and the women who have an abortion. Because it’s everyone and anyone, it’s one in three women in France»insists Blandine Lenoir.

When the filmmaker started financing her film three years ago, she came up against the skepticism of her interlocutors: “I was asked the question: ‘But is it still a subject, abortion?’ I explained that yes, nevertheless, in Poland you can no longer have an abortion, in France it is still tense. I needed to argue. […] To defend a right, it is fundamental to know its history, and how we managed to obtain it.

Today, Blandine Lenoir notices that we no longer ask her the question. In June 2022, the United States Supreme Court shocked the rest of the world by revoking Roe v. wade, effectively restricting access to abortion in much of the country. In France, the inclusion of the right to abortion in the Constitution has just been voted by the National Assembly on November 24.

And if abortion is increasingly brought to the screen (notably in the magnificent The Event, by Audrey DiwanWhere Never Rarely Sometimes Always, by Eliza Hittman), it is clear that films on the subject remain rare.

“That’s all?”

Among the received ideas about abortion thatAnnie Anger tries to defuse, some persist fifty years after the period described in the film. In a short but memorable scene, a young woman who has just had an abortion asks to see the content that has been sucked out. The camera will not show us the small membranes in question, only the actress who launches a “That’s all?” both comical and moving.

Blandine Lenoir admits to having hesitated to show something graphic: “I wanted to take the blame out of this character who thinks she’s doing something horrible, that she’s going to hell, and I really wondered whether I was showing it or not. And Lucile Ruault [engagée comme conseillère historique sur le film, ndlr] said to me: “Whatever you show, for anti-abortions, it will always be too much.” So I said to myself: “It’s not worth it, what matters is to film the relief of my character.”

A taboo still being deconstructed: just a few weeks ago, on October 19, 2022, the Guardian caused astonishment by distributing scientific photographs which showed what the result of an abortion looks like before ten weeks. And reminded how much our imagination still lacks representations of abortion.

anniecolere 120 def hdAnnie Anger

by Blandine Lenoir

with Laure Calamy, Zita Hanrot and India Hair

Sessions

Duration: 1h59

Released November 30, 2022

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“Annie Colère”: finally a film that shows abortion as an act that relieves