Happening

Happening ★★★★★

I know I'm repeating the obvious if I say that this is a kind of horror film but what strikes me as more accurate is to depict it almost as a kind of "conspiracy thriller" that is filled with paranoia to the point that it feels like everyone is against the protagonist, that everyone is part of some bigger, more insidious plan. But truth to be told, they are just afraid because to ban abortions is to rule with fear and this is perfectly embodied in Diwan's intense period drama.

The fact that she goes so all out and doesn't turn her camera away from the painful details fits with the overall mood of the film, it fits with the desperation and deep, deep fear. It makes those fears concrete in a way that isn't unsubtle but then again, the direction is subtle where it needs to be. It reminds me of Carole Roussopoulos' Just Avoid Sex (1971), not because it's pretty much the only other French film I've seen about abortion but because there the goal was to show safe abortion to offer information and hope to women, to erase stigma, whereas here it feels like the goal is to show the unthinkable reality of a society where abortion is banned. Both films are clearly statements of their times, both films are angry, and both films are very determined.

I've actually never seen this well-thought film about abortion that takes into account many possible worries and issues that are related to it and draws a very complex and full portrait of abortion as a personal and social phenomenon. When it comes to the social aspects of the film, it should be also seen as a film that depicts a society where laws are ruled only from the perspective of one group of people. It affects people as well: they don't have to think about others. In this case and the case of patriarchal societies, men do not have to think about women or people with uteri. They do not have to see them as equals and they can remain uneducated. It poisons the whole system and twists the idea of what we see worthy of discussing as human experience.

It doesn't exist only in 1960s France but in modern-day societies as well. Men never have to listen to women if they don't want to, and when they do, only as sisters, wives, mothers, and daughters. Since those roles are often defined by the patriarchal system and in relation to men, speaking from them can be very difficult. You are not necessarily seen as a human being but through your role. The same seems to happen in the film as well, also in relation to other women. The oppressed people learn to look at themselves through the eyes of their oppressors (was this Stuart Hall's idea, I can't remember?). They accept their taboos. That's a hard place to express your fears.