Happening is a haunting adaptation of Annie Ernaux’s memoir. It won the Golden Lion at Venice in 2021. It’s a stark look at what a girl had to do to get an abortion in France in 1963, before it became legal. Her friends scoff at the very idea going against the system, and the intense fear of being arrested is ever present. I was also eerily reminded of Claude Chabrol’s The Story of Women which also took place in France before abortion was legal.
As in the film Call Jane (also programmed at Sundance 2022), Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) must indeed ask and call around in order to find the right person to terminate her pregnancy so she can continue her studies. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days and Vera Drake have already been made, but Ernaux’s story almost serves as a warning of how things could go back to former times in the USA if Republicans get their way.
In the Q&A, director Audrey Diwan said she read Ernaux’s memoir after having an abortion. This personal experience helped to provide the inspiration for this story and gives it validity.