The forceful and terrible decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in reversing the case of Roe v. Wade, causing the violation of reproductive rights and women’s freedoms, has highlighted how rights we can take for granted can suddenly vanish. An ideological resolution that, observing other things that seem irrevocable in that country -ahem, weapons-, gives the feeling that it no longer seeks to send a message of exemplary intention.
This brings to mind the decision made in France almost 80 years ago to have Marie-Louise Giraud executed for performing 27 abortions during the course of World War II in the Cherbourg region. And there could have been moralistic intentions, but it almost leaves the feeling that they were looking for set an example that would be hard to forget. Try to think about itwomen’s affair‘, a formidable drama that we can recover in Filmin and also in Mubi.
It is what it is
Isabelle Huppert stars in this French film that is based on Giraud’s story, at the same time as Francis Szpiner’s book. In charge of directing and co-writing the script is one of her usual collaborators and essential name in the history of francophone cinema such as Claude Chabrol, whose extensive filmography has been moving between genres and narrative styles.
Here it falls more into the period drama based on true events, though their intentions are less academic and conventional than expected. One could not expect less, given the complexity of the story, which follows this woman trying to survive in occupied France during the great war. In this period of need, she assists her neighbor, who needs to interrupt an unwanted pregnancy that she cannot take care of.
Needless to say, the practice is not exactly legal during this period of time. But Huppert’s character is capable of the process. Soon word will spread and other women will come to his aid to have an abortion, especially women who have been raped by the Nazi army and have become pregnant. For performing said services she will receive emoluments that will end up changing their situation in this hard period.
‘Women’s Affairs’: captivating and complex
One of the things that makes it especially compelling is how it approaches this main character, who doesn’t seem concerned about the illegality of her actions and is completely ambiguous about whether she considers the actions she does morally right or wrong.
That character study he performs is complex and fascinatingalso giving space to humanist criticism by touching on how her own husband is affected, but not because of the morality of the act but because of the prosperity and freedom that it gives her.
All this manages to be sustained, in addition to a meticulous and adequately intimate direction by Chabrol, by the magnificent interpretation of Huppert, whose excellence has been so common throughout his career that it should not surprise -and, even so, it ends up doing it- . Together they make a film that is fascinating for what, but even more dazzling for how. A highly recommended gem. that it is worth rescuing these bleak days.