Happening

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As Anne’s situation closes in on her from all sides and her belly begins to grow, Diwan raises the film’s tension, accentuated by chaptered segments that underscore the alarming irreversibility of time. Throughout, she favors long, frantic edits, immersing the audience in Anne’s dread, anxiety, and even physical pain in a way reminiscent of Cristian Mungiu’s “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days.” Pay close attention to the film’s virtuoso centerpiece upon her arrival, during which the doe-like girl enters a house of barebones and submits her body to the care of a woman who performs illegal abortions on girls in the need. Diwan shoots the sequence in one take, which makes Anne feel both the sting and the dread of her situation. Elsewhere, whenever she wants to emphasize the vulnerability of Anne’s body, the filmmaker opts for similar methods, elegantly tracking the action in slow, patient shots while focusing on the actor’s facial fluctuations. In a part that demands a lot from him, Vartolomei masters the art of silence, somehow managing to react, reflect and protest, often without saying a single word.

One of Diwan’s greatest feats with “Happening” is advocating not just for safe access to legal abortions, but also for true sexual freedom that dares to aspire to a world where slut-shaming is a thing of the past. With scenes that are both modest and lovely, especially a radical one where a friend demonstrates her masturbation technique in front of a shocked Anne, Diwan validates and almost stubbornly celebrates the equality of a woman’s desire. What a rare pleasure in a punitive world that denies women this parity.

Now showing in theaters.


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