Based on the eponymous novel by Annie Ernaux, ‘Happening’ (original title: L’événement) is a French period drama movie helmed by Audrey Diwan. Set in 1963, the narrative revolves around a bright young student named Anne, whose dreams of completing her studies seem to fade away when she gets pregnant. With her final exams on the horizon, Anne decides to go against the law and get an abortion.
The dramatic narrative is enhanced by the visuals used in the movie that are both warm yet dark at the same time. The French film uses backdrops of different locations, keeping all of us curious about the places that create the setting of the storyline. Moreover, the seemingly authentic premise that tackles the controversial theme of abortion makes us wonder if it is based on true events or not. Well, allow us to share what we know and put your doubts to bed!
Is Happening Based on a True Story?
‘Happening’ is partially based on a true story. The book on which the screenplay is based is semi-autobiographical, which documents Ernaux’s real-life experience of going through an abortion when she was a student in Rouen. Much like the book, the movie highlights the plight of women and their rights, especially with regard to abortion in 1960s France.
Apart from its political resonance, the film touches the viewers on an emotional level by portraying the hardship that the protagonist Anne goes through. In an interview with Variety in October 2021, IFC Films’ President Arianna Bocco talked about the impact of the period drama. She said, “This the perfect combination of cinematic excellence, a cultural, social and global moment where this just doesn’t only affect in American women but also men, families, and people working in the medical field.”
The portrayal of France and its laws against abortion has been depicted quite accurately in the movie since abortion was not legalized in the nation until 1975. In fact, as seen in the film, a young woman who did not want to have a child so early on in her life had little to no options because anyone stepping up to help her, be it a doctor or a friend, could go to prison. Even though the storyline is set in the 1960s, the film could not have been released at a better time, especially in the US, where a number of conservative states like Texas passed restricted abortion law that bans the procedure after six weeks into pregnancy.
In a number of interviews, Annie Ernaux confessed that she based her book on several real experiences in her life, which holds up a mirror to society at the same time. However, the screenplay is not lifted as it is from the eponymous novel, but a majority of the storyline follows the same trajectory. Thus, it would be safe to say that ‘Happening’ is rooted in reality, although fictionalized elements of the film are an integral part of what makes it so impactful.
Happening Filming Locations
‘Happening’ is primarily filmed in France, particularly in the departments of Charente, Charente-Maritime, Essonne, and Hauts-de-Seine. Since the narrative is set in France, the production team utilized the diverse landscape of this Western European country to add more authenticity to the film. Sources reported that principal photography for the drama movie commenced in July 2020 and seemingly wrapped up by the end of Summer 2020. Let’s take a look at the specific locations that serve as production sites for the drama movie!
The production team of ‘Happening’ set up camp in Charente, which is a department located in the southwestern part of France. Scenes involving Anne’s family cafe were taped in the commune of Saint-Amant-de-Boixe, seemingly at a property on 12 Rue Basse. Named after the eponymous river, Charente comprises the former province of Angoumois and parts of Saintonge. The rich history of the area makes it an interesting filming location for a drama set in the 1960s.
The cast and crew members also traveled to the coastal department of Charente-Maritime, which lies on the southwestern coast of France. It seems that the production team recorded the beach sequences at Le Pont Du Diable. The historical landmark is located at 17420 Saint-Palais-sur-Mer, a beautiful commune in Charente-Maritime.
For filming purposes, the team also set up camp in the department of Essonne, which is located in the region of Île-de-France. Several pivotal parts of the movie, including interior scenes set on campus and in dorm rooms, were filmed in Essonne. The campus of Université Paris-Saclay – Campus d’Orsay served as the production location for those scenes to keep them true to life. The university is located at 15 Rue Georges Clemenceau in the commune of Orsay.
As for the exterior shots of the campus, the cast and crew utilized the premises of INSHEA (Institut national supérieur formation et recherche – handicap et enseignements adaptés), a graduate school in the Hauts-de-Seine department of Northern France. The school is a part of the Université Paris Lumières and is located at 58-60 Av. des Landes in Suresnes.
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