Set in post–World War Two France, The Happening tells the story of Anne, a promising student of literature who has no redress in her unwanted pregnancy. She tries a number of ways to end the pregnancy, leading to betrayal and humiliating episodes: the trusted doctor who prescribes shots that actually strengthen the foetus, the pal who assumes sex with her is ok, as her body is already occupied. Eventually, she finds a backroom place involving wands, in a confronting scene of what women risk in undergoing and performing the procedure.
Against a clamour of older white men debating the future of a country, a young university student, Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) falls pregnant. She finds herself utterly alone, unable to reveal her situation to anyone. Whilst school friends worry about conjugating verbs for an upcoming university exam, she falls into a despair that neither Sartre nor Camus could ever imagine in their battling philosophies. It is 1963, and intellectual wars are raging. Sex is in the air, but not sexual freedom for women in a French provincial town, Angouleme. One of Anne’s roommates demonstrates how to achieve orgasm, with a pillow, beneath a poster for Nekrassovby – who else—Sartre?
The Happening is quiet, compact film, offering a glimpse into post-war France and a deeply considered comparison to the present.