Things To Come, 2016.
Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve.
Starring Isabelle Huppert, André Marcon, Roman Kolinka, Edith Scob and Sarah Le Picard.
A philosophy teacher soldiers through the death of her mother, getting fired from her job, and dealing with a husband who is cheating on her.
Disarmingly simple in execution, yet overwhelmingly rich in thematic complexity, director Mia Hansen-Løve has composed deeply mediative and rewarding drama with Things To Come. This Berlin Silver Bear-winning picture is an elegant and measured study of post-marital freedom, deftly explored by the great Isabelle Huppert. The legendary Parisian performer – arguably the most compelling screen actress of a generation – is frequently cited for going that extra mile. She’ll adopt characters and narratives which rattle each and every taboo; from incest to murder, but she is unquestionably at her finest when understated.
Her auteur here completely adheres to such notion and enables Huppert to quietly unhinge philosophy lecturer Nathalie Chazeaux; a woman whose noisy life suddenly becomes wholly absent and fragmented. Defined by substances – intellect and wealth most notably – she soon becomes dictated to by circumstance: an adulterous husband, the passing of her irritatingly needy mother, editorial alterations to her illustrious body of work. Isolated, yet unchained, Nathalie reconnects with Fabien (Roman Kolinka); her anarchic, ruggedly-handsome protégé who has recently moved to a secluded farmhouse on the French fringes. She begins holidaying there – armed with travelling partner Pandora: her mother’s obese black cat – and attempts to sculpt her existence once more.
Straddling silences with equal prowess to husband Olivier Assayas, Hansen-Løve provides both melancholy and warmth with Things To Come. Her screenplay is as textured as her lens: intimate, thoughtful, immediate. Framed with opulent wonder, and cloaked with simply breathtaking location photography, she has founded a deeply cinematic film without chaotic extravagance.
Huppert’s wryly funny and full-bodied performance is simply immaculate. She serves as a smudged window into orderly bourgeois living which slowly clears as she breaks away; gaining full clarity from solidarity. Channeling subtle yet venomous dialogue, audiences might be surprised just how frequently howls of laughter arrive given the subject matter. But every smile is paired with sobering anguish; from a delicate underpinning of what she’ll miss now husband Heinz (André Marcon) has left, to an academic, yet desperately personal disagreement with Fabien over breakfast.
Keeping in formation with the finite flavours, Things To Come offers dexterous tonal shades paired with poised mise en scène, helping to convey meaningful drama without unwarranted exposition. A scene of great note is the transformation of Nathalie’s book collection; a sprawling library which swallows many walls of her apartment, only to become succumbed to violent holes and frantic disorder following a domestic cull. Verbally few words are uttered, but visually such a moment speaks emotional volumes.
After the euphoric rave-beats of 2014’s Eden, Hansen-Løve has again adopted sound and music to render storytelling, but in an entirely opposite fashion. Here her film is dominated by prolonged spells of sparseness; fractured audio assistance to perfectly personify our heroine. Only in a handful of scenes does non-diegetic sound populate, and the vast majority of these are a reflection of travel. Time passing tenderly as Nathalie and Fabien cruise down neglected country roads, or more hire-wire voyages as she attempts to reach her unpredictable mother before something goes wildly awry.
Just like Nathalie, this is work of tender nuance; one with a unique and educated voice which appreciates quality over quantity. Deliberate pacing and miniature revelations may leave some spectators hanging in the film’s many open voids, but in these roomy environments is where Hansen-Løve hones such lyrical brilliance. Things To Come is a soulfully sincere depiction of abnormality in familiarity, and serves as a vital piece of bravura filmmaking from one of the industry’s most exciting young talents.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★