The event does not hide anything. Annie Ernaux has also underlined the accuracy of the film, even speaking of the “disturbance” caused by the images. Was it essential for you to face this reality?
Audrey Diwan: Annie Ernaux never looks away and it was therefore important for me to be in tune with that. I didn’t have any moral problem making the film. Whenever I wondered where I was going to place my camera, I wondered what Anne was going to watch. I wanted to be in the precision of that look to insert my director’s eye.
Some scenes rub shoulders with the horrific.
Anamaria Vartolomei: These are scenes that I dreaded a lot. It scared me a little because I have never experienced such severe pain. And I was worried that I would miss the point or fail to be fair. But I was very well surrounded, well looked at.
With Audrey, we worked in mirror, we worked on the breath. In the movie, there is this scene where the pain is supposed to get more and more intense and rise to crescendo. Audrey asked the sound engineer to give me an earpiece that kept “ticking” and pus louder. At the end, this “ticking” was so powerful that it vibrated and echoed in me. It reminded me of this sentence from Annie Ernaux who said: “Time has become a shapeless thing that was advancing inside me”.
Audrey Diwan: It is, moreover, a horrific phrase. We really wanted to work on the body in a concrete way. For some scenes, we were seated opposite each other and together we looked for common sensations.
Audrey, choosing to adapt this novel is not trivial. You also had to fight for funding. Do you consider it to be a political film?
Audrey Diwan: I don’t think you escape who you are when you make a film. I am politicized, because of my history and my studies in political science. When I choose a subject, I first look for something that touches me intimately and because I am politicized, I naturally go towards subjects that tend to be so.
But I don’t go on a project telling myself that I’m going to be the banner of a cause. Moreover, in this film, my cause is not clandestine abortion, but freedom: sexual freedom as much as the freedom to abort or to study. I felt close to this narration and its political dimension obviously resonated.
The word “abortion” is not mentioned in the whole movie. But this silence ultimately allows us to free speech today. It will inevitably make people react, create dialogue.
Audrey Diwan: Yes, it is liberating. And I did not come by chance to this book: it was after having an abortion that a friend advised me to read The event. This is how I discovered clandestine abortion with all the dangers that this entails.
There was something very intimate about confiding: “Me, when I had an abortion …”. I have the impression of freeing the people in front of me, it creates debate. Even men tell me about the time they accompanied their wives who were going to have an abortion. That’s good, let’s go, let’s put some words down! Asking words, breaking out of silence, is already changing mentalities. That becomes political.
Anamaria, you are part of a generation that dares to break this taboo more.
Anamaria Vartolomei: Yes, I have the impression that we are very alert. I see it around me and in my 16-year-old brother: it’s a subject we don’t talk about anymore. There is less shame, less judgments vis-à-vis abortion. I have the impression of a “safe place” where we can talk about it in complete safety, in a very free way.
Audrey Diwan: The downside is that it still depends a lot on places and environments …
We can see the sharpness of the film: in Texas, in Poland, the right to abortion is still threatened.
Audrey Diwan: And even in France, I don’t think it is completely accepted everywhere … What is the law worth when your family is against it? Or when you can’t find a doctor who performs an abortion within 30 kilometers? It is not so simple. There is a whole reality that escapes us. Law is necessary, but it is not always sufficient to protect a right.
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“The event”: Audrey Diwan tells us about her visceral and political film on abortion