L’AVENIR/ THINGS TO COME
France, 2016, 100 minutes, Colour.
Isabelle Huppert, Andre Marcon, Roman Kolinka, Edith Scob.
Directed by Mia Hansen- Love.
Mia Hansen- Love is A French director who has made an impact with the films, Goodbye, First Love and Eden. This time the protagonists of her drama are much older, teachers at college level and graduate students. It is also a star vehicle for Isabelle Huppert, star billing for almost 40 years, who has sustained star billing and continues to be a dominant European actress.
This is also a film whose screenplay will please audiences who take philosophy seriously. Nathalie, Isabelle Huppert, loves philosophy, teaching, reading, discussing, comparing notes with her husband. This gives the opportunity for the naming of several philosophers, student discussions about issues, and many references to classic philosophers in the French tradition like Rousseau, Pascal and Chateaubriand.
The couple have two adult children who are not so interested in philosophy and become supportive of their mother when the 25 years of marriage break, to Nathalie’s shock. However, she seems to calmly have discussions with her husband, with her children. One complication is the constant harassment from her mother who is growing old quite ungracefully, leaning on her daughter. It is of interest that when the mother dies, Nathalie has a discussion with the parish priest who listens attentively so that he can prepare a suitable eulogy for the mother, raises issues of faith, religious practice – and Nathalie herself uses quotations from Pascal about faith and doubt, significant in France’s secular society.
The other aspect of the film is Nathalie’s friendship with a former student whom she promotes, assists in the publication of his essays – although, she has to have sessions with new marketing experts at the publishing house who are influenced by the move away from books to the Internet, away from the plain presentation of text to images and gimmicks to promote works. The student who admires her decides to move into a commune in the Alps and Nathalie pays several visits, especially with her mother’s cat who causes a amount of mischief. It is interesting that the screenplay does not take its audience in the direction of the romance of the older woman with the young man, the student having his own girlfriend.
This is a story with a love for philosophy, reflecting on ageing, memories of the past, happiness and regrets, the courage to continue living despite setbacks and drawing on one’s own resources to keep going.
1. The title? The Future? Things to Come? reflection on the past? What futures?
2. The director, drawing on her memories?
3. The French tone, style?
4. Paris, homes, schools, parks, walks, the home for the elderly, the publishers? The contrast with Brittany, the coast, the islands, the beach, the statue of Chateaubriand, asking for quiet? The mountains, the train journey, the roads, the farm, the huts, the woods, the winter season and snow?
5. The score, classical music, popular songs, Woody Guthrie, Unchained Melody…?
6. The introduction to the family, on the ferry, Nathalie and her philosophical manuscript, the family walk, the statue, asking for quiet?
7. Nathalie and Heinz as teachers, student protests, memories of 1968, banners, causes, the emphasis on majority rules in a democracy? Nathalie assertive, going out, confronting, bringing the students in? Her classes, texts, discussions?
8. Fabien coming to see her, his visit, his memories of the past, his idle time as a youth, his encouragement by Nathalie, publications? Their walk, his changing views, his writing? Her getting the books from the publishers? His visit during the family dinner and Heinz’s reaction? Going to the mountains, to write, to publish, the anarchists, their identity, the different types, the Germans, Fabien’s girlfriend? Welcoming Nathalie, adopting Pandora? His own age, life, its meanings?
9. Nathalie and Heinz, married 25 years, at home, meals, the relationship with their children, the talk, taking each other for granted, interactions about philosophy and classes? The love for philosophy? Their children not so keen? Life as a routine, Nathalie expecting to be loved forever?
10. A film about philosophy, audience response to philosophy, the range of authors, Rourssequ, Pascal, the range of books, classes, debates, texts, the tutorial on the grass? Getting the students to think, free to think? Nathalie and her devotion to philosophy, continued reading? Enduring discussions?
11. The visit to the publishers, the marketing people, being modern, the new design, Nathalie thinking it an eye-sore? The later return? Accepting the recommendations from the market?
12. Nathalie’s mother, the continued phone calls, panic attacks, her moods, getting the fireman to rescue her, not wanting to go to hospital, her resignation in going to the home for the elderly, leaving Pandora behind? Not eating, watching television, not recognising Sarkozy, the papers? Her past as a model, uneducated, being a cadaver on a television film? Her fall, her death?
13. Nathalie going to the priest, explaining her mother’s life and background, wanting the burial in the church, not going to church frequently but a believer? The priest and his listening, taking notes? Welcoming Nathalie and the family? The service, his sermon, praising Nathalie, her love for philosophy, her mother’s encouraging her? The doubts and questions and their relationship to faith? The secular ceremony and Nathalie and her quote from Pascal, his questions about God, evidence of God, signs of God?
14. Chloe, talking with her father, knowing that he was having an affair? Heinz telling Nathalie, dispassionate, less evident emotions, her response? Getting things, his books? Nathalie and remembering the house, happy memories, the holidays with children? Her going to swim, her last visit to the house? The irony of her glimpsing the woman with Heinz from the bus, giggling?
15. The decision to go to the mountains, taking the cat, its running away, bringing back the mouse? Her seeing for herself what Fabien in the group were doing?
16. One-year passing, the birth of the grandchild, her joy, holding the baby, Heinz present, the mother weeping?
17. The decision to go to the mountains again, Pandora to be taken by Fabien, her comments on her age, her views, Fabien accusing her of doing what pleased her rather than social change? The disappointment? The Woody Guthrie song?
18. Heinz, arriving to take no book, Schopenhauer, his leaving as Nathalie was cooking the Christmas meal, her children coming, the baby, the presence? Her singing with the baby?
19. The final credits, the rooms, partly empty, the presents there? Unchained Melody?