From Audrey Diwan (“Losing It”) and based on the novel, “Happening” chronicles a young woman’s struggle with abortion. Tense, stressful and difficult to watch, it unfolds much like a horror film, but it is also thoughtful and emotional.
In 1963 France, Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) is a dedicated literature student who is striving to be a professor. One night she meets a young fireman and they have sex. An over-tired Anne thinks nothing of it. Then she feels off, not herself. Anne goes to a doctor who tells her that she’s obviously pregnant. Anne is in disbelief.
Then she remembers. In a panic, Anne goes to another doctor and begs for spermicide. The doctor prescribes injections that will force her to menstruate.
Anne then confides to her friends. They belittle and turn against her. Then, the film takes an even darker turn. Anne takes matters into her own hands using a metal wire.
There are moments when the film resembles Brian de Palma‘s “Carrie” or Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan.” Anne is wide eyed idealistic and good natured, and even her library of books seems to bend sideways in conspiracy, not to mention Anne’s friends who squint their eyes in revulsion or chuckle at her with ridicule.
Boyfriends are petty and base serpentine creatures.
One scene in particular with a homespun abortion doctor (Anna Mouglalis) is as stressful and cringe-inducing as any film by David Cronenberg. The jittery and almost spastic camerawork echoes the phantasmagoric bedroom scenes in “Rosemary’s Baby.”
“Happening” sadly underscores the threat that women faced in 1963 and shockingly may do today with the very probable reversal of Roe v. Wade. With just one Supreme Court ruling, women may well be treated as second class citizens forced to carry a pregnancy to term, regardless of circumstances. Such a shocking judgment, dismissing a woman’s individuality, her health or her desires, makes for a present horror that is all too real.