A Story Beyond Gender: Audrey Diwan and Anamaria Vartolomei on Happening | Interviews

Were there any details that you put into the film to give it that more intimate, autobiographical feel?

AD: I involved myself in the story in a very intimate way. I wanted to tell a story about this girl and her freedom, as I said. So I needed to portray her sexual life. And there’s not much sex in that book. Annie Erneaux talks a lot about it in other books, but in this one, there was not much there. 

Marcia Romano, my co-writer, and I really wanted to go step by step. The sexual part of the story appears step by step. At first, the girls just talk about it, whispering in their room. Then there is an image in a book, and then there is a girl mimicking masturbation until she really masturbates. Then the character is ready to [explore her] own pleasure. And I really wanted that sequence to be beautiful, and for us to love this moment for her. The masturbation scene came from my own experience—another girl showed me this when I was a young girl. She told me things that I didn’t know, because we were never supposed to talk about it. 

Silence is everywhere. It’s not only about abortion, it’s also about pleasure and what girls want in life. So yes, you have to put some of your own experience [in the film]. I asked Annie Ernaux about it, and she said, “Yes, I think it’s right.”

In terms of performance, Anamaria, were there any details that you added to give it more of a personal feel?

AV: I think the character gave me much more than I did her. She’s just such a confident and brave and determined woman that I tried to steal that from her, and I still keep these things with me. As I often say to Audrey, I started this movie as a young lady and I finished it as a woman. I grew up so much during the shoot, thanks to her. As she says, it’s a quest, and a pursuit of freedom. So I think that at the end of the movie, I also felt free in a way, because working together in the way she directed me, she made me feel more confident about my work and about what I’m able to do. I grew up so much and I felt way more confident after [making this film].

AD: At the end of the movie, Anne says, “I’m going to be a writer.” [Turns to Anamaria] And now you say it out loud: ”I’m going to be an actress.” So there was an intimate relationship between Anne’s journey and Anamaria’s journey.

What would you say to people who say, “This is in the past. Abortion is legal. We don’t need to worry about illegal abortion anymore?”

AD: Yesterday was election day in [France]. We’re this close to having the extreme right in charge. And I know what Biden has said in the past about abortion. So nobody should think it can’t change, because we’ve seen the law changing in so many countries. 

That’s the reason why we didn’t want to make this film a “period piece.” I carefully talked with my crew about how it should be—not anachronistic, but the audience should have the feeling that it’s in the past and nowadays at the same time. When you set a story in the past, when you do a true period piece, it always comes with some kind of nostalgia attached. And I have no nostalgia for that period of time, especially when we’re talking about women’s rights.

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