At the end of the Venice Film Festival: A Golden Lion for Audrey Diwan’s uncompromising abortion drama “L’événement” and a brilliant world premiere of Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel”.
Less was more for the best films in the competition at this 78th edition of the festival. It was also easy for the jury to reject the loud and bold thing that had played its way forward in the last few days. Among the political films in the program, the quietest won after all. “L’événement (Happening)” by the French artist Audrey Diwan puts her finger on a wound that is reopening before our very eyes, even in many democracies – the criminalization of abortion, which we believed to have been overcome. The chronicle of a young woman’s desperate efforts in France in 1963 to end her unwanted pregnancy could be repeated in Texas in 2021 as well.
In friendly pastel tones, the film outlines the promising start of studies for a talented young woman from the working class. A little later, the same warm colors only stand for a world that is closed to you. At the time, it would be hard to imagine continuing to study as a single mother. An abortion, for them the only option, would threaten everyone involved even indirectly with imprisonment. An apparently understanding doctor prescribes a remedy that is actually only supposed to strengthen the embryo. Every further step that the young woman can take exposes her to the risk of losing her freedom, if not her life.
In her film adaptation of the report of the same name by Annie Emaux (recently published in German as “The Event”), the filmmaker does not dramatize anything: the doors close quietly to the protagonist while her time passes by. Friendships freeze in the cold, even if she only addresses the topic indirectly.
As a rare consequence, Audrey Diwan’s only second feature film restricts himself to logging what is happening. This shows great respect for the original, but also reduces the artistic form to cinematic standards. With her effective restraint, she obviously impressed the jury headed by Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”), which also included Chloé Zhao, the Oscar-winning director of “Nomadland”.
The most remarkable thing about it, the performance of the 22-year-old leading actress Anamaria Vartolomei, was unfortunately not recognized. Instead, Penelopé Cruz received the Coppa Volpi for her brilliantly virtuoso leading role in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Parallel Mothers”. This honor is also highly deserved; The great Spaniard would probably never have brought this boldly constructed drama to the screen without Cruz.
As an actor, the Filipino John Arcilla was honored for the film “On the Job: The Missing 8” by Erik Matti, which was shown at the end of the festival. The effective but formulaic police thriller owes its speed to credible anger against institutional corruption. In the program he stood for the realignment begun by festival director Alberto Barbera to break down genre boundaries between the sections.
Happy filmmakers who are above these categories. Paolo Sorrentino, who started his international career here in Venice in 2008 with his brightly colored political satire “Il Divo”, returned with his most personal film, perhaps even the best: “The Hand of God” won the big jury award. Anyone who loves cinema and football cannot resist this story of initiation of a young Neapolitan. What is more fascinating? The arrival of Maradona or the unexpected acquaintance with a filmmaker who works like Fellini? Sorrentino was never so close to his great role model in the balance between the oversized and the intimate.
That’s probably what Jane Campion is about, too, with “The Power Of the Dog” playing a chamber play in front of a wide western landscape. Now she received the directing award; but something is missing from this examination of images of masculinity. Thomas Savage’s literary source has been compared to Steinbeck’s “Beyond Eden”, but Jane Campion’s hypothermic film lacks the epic dimension.
So there was more genre, but also more experiment: There is no dialogue in the most unusual entry of the competition, “Il Buco” by the Italian Michelangelo Frammartino, which has now been awarded the special prize. Using semi-documentary means, the filmmaker reconstructs the exploration of a 700 meter deep cave in Calabria. It is an amazingly indulgent film about the unimaginable, which contrasts the all-devouring hole with a concert of cowbells.
The festival director’s bill has paid off. The cinema celebrated the unusually broad bouquet in all its varieties. And for the finale, another old master who has not forgotten anything: Ridley Scott’s new knight film “The Last Duel” had a celebrated world premiere in Venice. If the 83-year-old should consider retiring now, he would have added a congenial counterpart to his debut “Die Duellisten”.
Staged with virtuosity right up to the final duel, to which a knight played by Matt Damon challenged his wife’s rapist, played by Adam Driver, the film captivates with its surprisingly original form. The script, which Hollywood stars Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wrote together with the great filmmaker Nicole Holofcener, uses the method of Akira Kurosawa’s classic “Rashomon”: narrated one after the other from three perspectives, it only increases the concentration on the dilemma of one in apparent repetition Finding the truth without sober jurisdiction.
It’s Ridley Scott’s best film in a long time – and like much that was shown on the Lido in those bulging eleven days, can only really be imagined on the big screen.