Presaging a future in which we’ll have to constantly clarify whether any given movie titled Happening is an emotionally harrowing, painfully timely French abortion drama/Venice Film Festival winner, or a science fiction film in which a tree tries to kill Mark Wahlberg, THR reports that Audrey Diwan’s The Happening has, indeed, pulled down the big award at this year’s festival. Anamaria Vartolomei stars in the film (French title: L’Événement) as a young woman living in 1960s France, who finds her desire for an academic career systemically threatened after she becomes pregnant in a society that legally dictates its control over her body. In our rundown of several of the most important films at VFF this year, Leila Latif described the film’s blending of political consciousness and painfully realistic body horror thus:
Much of the audience cowered in their seats or hid behind their programs during the most unflinchingly brutal scenes. The news out of Texas made all of this particularly affecting, but even without the backdrop of breaking news giving it a special, unfortunate timeliness, the film would remain devastating and beautifully made, with a phenomenal central performance by Anamaria Vartolomei.
“I feel heard tonight!” Diwan declared while accepting the award.
Also bringing in awards tonight: Paolo Sorrentino, whose semi-autobiographical The Hand Of God took home the grand jury prize, and Jane Campion, who won the best director prize for her Benedict Cumberbatch vehicle The Power Of The Dog. Maggie Gyllenhaal, meanwhile, won for best screenplay for her directorial debut, The Lost Daughter, while Romanian directors Monica Stan and George Chiper-Lillemark won the first feature award for their drug rehab drama Imaculat. And in the acting categories, Penelope Cruz (Parallel Mothers), John Arcilla (On The Job: The Missing 8), and Filippo Scotti (Hand Of God) all took home awards.
It’s worth noting that several of the most prominent films at the festival debuted out-of-competition: Halloween Kills, The Last Duel, Dune, Last Night In Soho, and more were all ineligible for awards.