“The Event”: in the solitude of clandestine abortions


Beside “The happy event”, expression that refers to the birth of a child, there is The event : a simple, neutral word, title of Annie Ernaux’s novel in which the writer recounts her clandestine abortion carried out in January 1964, at the age of 23 (Gallimard, 2000). Annie Ernaux was then a student of literature. Coming from a modest background, she dreamed of writing and for nothing in the world she did not want to be a stay-at-home mother, with a baby who arrived too early in her life.

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By adapting The event in the cinema, Audrey Diwan, French director of Lebanese origin, born in 1980, keeps the naturalistic vein of Annie Ernaux’s “diary”, the camera on the shoulder sticking to the neck of Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei), of which we would swear to smell soap. This second feature film of a harsh and nervous beauty won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, a few months after Julia Ducournau received the Palme d’Or at Cannes for Titanium – two women winning the same year the highest awards in Cannes and Venice, this is another “event”. Fourteen years earlier, in 2007, the Romanian Cristian Mungiu, born in 1968, received the Palme d’Or for 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days, thriller-like drama set in Ceausescu’s Romania, where the “angel maker” was a cynical and abusive man, monetizing the abortion (catheterization) for having sex with the pregnant young woman and her devoted girlfriend .

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In The event, the heroine feels very lonely, even if she has two close friends, Hélène (Luana Bajrami) and Brigitte (Louise Orry-Diquero). Boarder, Anne returns home on weekends but does not say anything about her situation, neither to her mother, bar patron (Sandrine Bonnaire), so proud of her daughter’s career, nor to her literature teacher (Pio Marmaï), worried about his grades dropping. To have an abortion is to take the risk of ending up in prison, since doctors, midwives, etc. may also be deprived of their profession. In the film, the voluntary termination of pregnancy – which will be authorized in France in 1975 – is not really the subject of debate. The subject is just scary.

Frustrated youth

The staging highlights the silence which engulfs Anne a little more each day. The camera is attached to his “dumb” eyes, of a sparkling blue, to this flashing gaze that calls for help. But no one hears it, like an ambulance having cut off the sound of its siren. The Franco-Romanian actress Anamaria Vartolomei embodies with urgency and restraint a young woman with double bottom, serious and enjoyable, padlocked but determined to live her life – the actress was discovered in 2011 in My little princess, playing Isabelle Huppert’s daughter, in Eva Ionesco’s film.

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“The Event”: in the solitude of clandestine abortions