If you are a movie enthusiast like me, living in Austria means being able to attend one of the biggest film festivals in Europe, Viennale. As colourful October arrives, you are eager to reserve your tickets as soon as possible, for they are being sold just like fresh bread, in a country of culture. If you study film and your hobby is deconstructing and analysing every possible scene, then going to the festival is more than just an event, it is an intellectual challenge, a school. Movies are more than just audio-visual representations of reality, or of an author’s imagination; movies create new dimensions, give birth to worlds which never existed and cannot be defined as simple fictions. They inevitably challenge the boundaries of viewers, they transform them into martyrs of spectacles ranging from entertainment and amusing to sadistic, painful, unbearable. And despite the creator being human, the source of inspiration must be reality, even if it is eventually hyperbolized.
While watching a movie, one can hardly close the eyes, or break the gaze; it is a method of coming in contact with what normally one won’t want to or have the chance to. Viennale had its opening with the French production, L’Événement, by director Audrey Diwan, a creation inspired by the biographical novel of Annie Ernaux. Placing the narrative in France of 1960, 15 years before abortion became legal, L’Événement showcases the young student Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) and her turbulent discovery. The tension can be sensed from the first second of the movie, where the girl is followed by the camera as she moves around the room of a party, apparently with the intention of flirting, of attracting views from the side of the boys which is paradoxically strange because once she is approached by some, she ignores them. Maybe rather with a need for attention, for the need to feel wanted, in a time when female exposition was a taboo, Anne rebels against her status of student who should be aware of what men want and of what the risks are. But the viewers, along with Anne, don’t need too long to realise that she broke the rules and that now she has to „suffer from the disease that only women can get“.
L’Événement is far from being just a fictional story; Diwan’s movie captures a vision of pain, suffering, of anger and fear so many young girls had to confront. The discourse is not one of the past, its dominance on the present is to be observed, and not just in the case of Texas' recent decision regarding abortions.
It is hard to describe how movies awaken atmospheres and feelings in viewers, but L’Événement has moments when passive, neutral watching is impossible and when the physical pain, the psychological disillusion Annie goes through becomes palpable. At points, it is unbearable to see the torture she puts herself through, in trying to remove the life growing inside of her - a life she never considered as being important, as deserving a change to be brought to life, in a scenario where she never even was allowed a choice, so desperation and maybe hurting herself, irrevocably becoming the only options for her to continue her studies and not just be another puppet, docile at home, while the husband is at work.
The camera lens is the eye of the viewer, and in this case, the camera does not speak too much, Annie has a few lines too, as she is being followed by the unseen, by the omnipresent eye. But words are not even necessarily; the gaze and the meeting between is enough to signify everything.
L’Événement is just one of the numerous examples in which a movie - although producing the never-seen before - forces viewers to break out of their comfort zones, to think of dilemmas without answers, to meet situations they were maybe never aware of, to have to decide how important one life can be over another and how they would handle issues. Ultimately, they should realize that their opinion is just subjective - a singular one, brought about by the illusion cinema gives to viewers, making them think they are in control of what they see by being able to play with meaning. Only in the end do they realise that the perception and attention has been brutally stolen by technology becoming superior to its creator.
About the author:
With a passion for culture, psyche, exploring the world, and coming in contact with an infinite number of stories, I studied theatre, film and media, in sociology, along with writing at the University of Vienna. I tend to find beauty in every single element, while always attempting to fully live every experience, to archive it in the form of photography and written word. Not one day goes by for me without a journalistic discovery, an interview recorded or articles structured. If I would have to set a goal for the future, it would be to find an equilibrium between constant academic research and my engagement in international opportunities. My desired engagement is on a multidisciplinary level, in a never-ending journey while also trying to discover the fluidity of the self, complementing the world around me with the goal of having a small impact in pressing global issues.