Things to Come: The Drama as Inspiration
Why such a small audience? – The question came to me nearly always before every session. In a hall lit by the screen, one could almost count the heads of the spectators on one hand. “That’s because of explosions. It’s not so long since people have started to go out (again),” was one of my fussy questions got an answer from Onur, one of the organizers of Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival. “Perhaps they are afraid,” he added.
The Ankara’s Women’s Film Festival could not boast with visitors or a lively reception. Only several invited guests and a couple of passing spectators (except some rare occasions such as the film Motherland (AnaYurdu) by Turkish director Senem Tuzen) could be seen around.
The most exciting stories of the festival had been set in motion on the screens of the two halls at the Kizilirmak cinema during the festival’s six days. The role of a woman in a society and a family; her choice between personal freedom and traditions; woman as a lover; woman as a mother; woman as a daughter… such presented films enabled endless variations on the theme.
“Each has a different color” – such was the name of competition films. True. Everyone has its own color and everyone twists and turns, explains and tells the story their own way. You do not even remember what some of them were about (Celia Rowlson-Hall’s MA, for instance, which is a kind of postmodern version of Virgin Mary); some of them haunt you in your dream and make you feel restless (Yaelle Kayam’s Mountain (Ha’har); some of them leave you indifferent in spite of their horrifying phantasmagoric drama (Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Evolution); and some of them captivate you by their complexity, sophistication, exhaustiveness and depth (Turkish film Motherland). And while you might argue and quarrel over each of the characters’ choices and actions, there are… Things to Come, yes, there are Things to Come (L’Avenir) which is one big drama: A drama which, at the same time, can become an unbounded inspiration.
Mia Hansen Love’s Things to Come was the very inspiration for me, the film that was awarded with the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival; that left all other films far behind at the Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival; and got the Fipresci Prize for the hope it fosters.
The story is quite trivial at first glance: Professor Natalie (Isabelle Huppert) is in her 50’s and lives with her, also, professor husband (Andre Marcon). It has been 25 years since they have been together. They have got two kids. However, the sadness-infused comic tones are added to this routine through the elderly mother of Natalie (Edith Scop) who is streaked with her age and who constantly phones her daughter and asks her to help her due to the thousands of trifling reasons. Natalie has to answer to all of her questions at midnight, she has to leave her students amidst lectures, and has to rush to her and her black cat Pandora with packets in her hands. Natalie is always in motion, there’s always something happening around her… And there is her former student, anarchist youngster Fabien (Roman Kolinka) who is already bored with all the never-ending manifestations and opts for the extreme form of radicalism: He had rented a house in the mountains away from Paris and plans to move in there with only a couple of friends. Nature, philosophy, quotes, refusal to accept… In other words, true anarchist romanticism.
However, this habitual pace changes eventually. One by one, novelties are introduced in Natalie’s life: Her husband tells her he is leaving her for another woman; her mother who had been moved to a boarding house dies; her kids are having their own life for quite a while already; and even her anarchist student is in the mountains with his girlfriend… Also, she is asked at her job to have more regard to the demands of a new market and to adhere to better strategies in compliance with the marketing; the design of her book needs to be changed entirely which is a matter of resentment for her. “Mother has died, husband has left me, I am having problems at work. What should I do now when I am truly free?” – asks Natalie.
In addition to this, allergic to cats, she has to take the now homeless black cat Pandora (hope) at home and look after it; half of her precious book collection has been taken away by her husband to his new flat… She cannot even go to the seaside house they used to have in the Southern part of the country, having spent half of her life to blossom its garden… But there are so many years and memories connected to all of it…
She is sitting in the bus by the window. Although she is very reserved she begins to cry when suddenly she sees the happy couple walking in the street: her husband with his new woman. Aha, ahaa – she begins to laugh out loud, and you think to yourself: “What else can happen in one’s life?”
Natalie teaches philosophy and her take on the life is alike – philosophical. At a glance, she seems to be an unemotional, pragmatic woman and accepts all these sudden turn of events in her life as if they were meant to happen anyway. Well, she is supposed to be a woman ready for any challenges.
The realistic drama Things to Come is full of humor, hope and lightness. Witty dialogues, irony and, of course, Isabelle Huppert’s brilliant performance makes the character of the leading protagonist even more distinct. Huppert manages to make spectators fully experience Natalie’s emotions, although she never makes a “drama” on the screen, never exhausts you with tears or tragedy. There are only two fleeting moments in the whole film when she seems to be broken, cracked inside, albeit seemingly.
This if the fifth – and exceptionally good – film by Mia Hansen Love. Through her previous works she has already established herself as a hope-fostering and interesting young director. The script is very coherent and is free of any excessive tones. The cast is natural, perky and real. The director is very subtle in conveying the interactions of different generations of one family. The chats of protagonists are quite unrestrained in the scenes where they sit around the table together, even when the daughter asks her father to confess about her new love to Natalie. Despite the inner conflict, they can manage to coexist. The final scene is particularly impressive: It is Christmas Eve. The children come to visit their mother. The table is set in the main room where it used to be before. In the room next door Natalie’s tiny grandkid is sleeping. The baby starts crying during the dinner. “I’ll go there, you stay,” says Natalie and takes the baby in her hands, rocks it, sings to it… Young ones’ chatter and the sound of the dishes tinkling are heard from the main room. The camera departs… Things To Come – here is where you recall the name of the film once again.
“This film is about the virtue of loneliness,” said Isabelle Huppert at the Berlin Film Festival.
Do not be afraid to start your life anew. Do not be afraid of dramatic changes. Do not be afraid of loneliness. Do not be afraid.
Edited by Steven Yates
© FIPRESCI 2016