A successful film producer (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) finds himself in grave financial problems in Mia Hansen-second L0ve’s feature-length film, “Father of My Children” (2009). His family is unaware of his secret. He is doomed to failure. The film is a psychological study, dramatic without being overbearing, and Hansen-approach L0ve’s is non-pushy. “Father of My Children” was the first of her films to gain international acclaim, and even after multiple viewings, it remains a riveting watch. It’s hard to imagine Hansen-L0ve, who wrote and directed the picture, was only 27 years old at the time.
Hansen-directorial L0ve’s debut, “All is Forgiven,” was made when she was only 25 years old, and came before “Father of My Children.” Until today, “All is Forgiven” had never been distributed in the United States. Hansen-L0ve has established himself as one of the most intriguing directors working today, with films like “Eden,” “Things to Come,” “Maya,” and this year’s “Bergman Island.” “All is Forgiven” gives us a glimpse of her at the outset of this trip, and it’s amazing to see her style and artistic tendencies already in place and in full force.
“All is Forgiven” is a drama film that begins in Vienna in 1995 and finishes in Paris in 2007. It follows Victor (Paul Blain), his partner Annette (Marie-Christine Friedrich), and their six-year-old daughter Pamela through their lives (Victoire Rousseau). Victor is French, but Annette is Austrian, and they have chosen Austria as their home base for reasons that will only become evident over time. Or Annette has made a decision because Victor makes a habit of not making any decisions.
Victor has a captivating demeanor and a twinkle in his eye; when he looks at people, he appears open and curious. In the original flirting connotation, the expression is almost “come-hither.” This is an intriguing choice, however it does not appear to be Victor’s conscious choice (but maybe it is, maybe by projecting “come hither” at everybody in his vicinity Victor avoids facing the void within). Hansen-wheelhouse L0ve’s is these various possibilities, and it’s present even at the tender age of 25. Blain’s face, his reactions, his underlying thoughts, and his observing outsider attitude are all scrutinized by her camera. Victor’s reluctance to leave is an undertone, a default emotional state that is never defined or even spoken. We’re just getting a sense of how this guy works and how he navigates the environment.
Victor’s charm is no longer effective on Annette, especially since he appears resolved to achieve nothing with his life. He spends the entire day sitting. He mentions “writing” only in passing. He is a drug addict. He’s a chronic underachiever. “Why do you want everyone to believe you’re a loser?” Annette asks, exasperated. Victor’s drug use increases after the family returns to Paris. With Annette, he is violent. Pamela, a young girl, is there to watch it all. He moves in with another drug addict when Annette kicks him out. Victor confides in his sister Martine (Carole Franck) about his worry and depression, yet he does it with a glint of charisma in his eyes. Is he looking forward to the real thing? Is he simply a slacker? Is this something that only junkies do? He is smitten by Annette and Pamela. What’s the deal with this guy? “For me, producing films is about questions, not about answers,” Hansen-L0ve remarked in a 2016 interview with Indiewire. I suppose if I had the answers, I wouldn’t have needed to write the movie at all.”
A startling title card appears halfway through the film: “11 Years Later.” (The other title cards, such as “Back in Paris,” “One Month Later,” and so on, are more manageable.) “All is Forgiven” skips forward almost a decade without warning. Annette and Victor have divorced, Annette has remarried, and Pamela (now played by Constance Rousseau, Victoire’s real-life older sister) is a college student with only hazy memories of her father. Martine, whom Pamela has forgotten, contacts Pamela in the hopes of arranging a family reunion. Victor is currently in Paris. He is not as “ill” as he once was. He desires a connection with his daughter.
What is it about Hansen-work L0ve’s that appeals to you so much? I believe it varies from person to another. Her writing awakens in me what John Keats referred to as “negative capability,” which is incredibly rare in humans (then, now, or ever). Negative capability, according to Keats, is when “man is capable of remaining in uncertainties, riddles, doubts, without any irritated seeking for fact and reason.” It’s typical to discuss how polarized our world is at the moment. Yes. However, every era has its polarizations, and humans may be drawn to sharp contrasts. All the good stuff happens in between—all those “uncertainties, riddles, misgivings,” all those trips home, or walks to work, or walks through a park with a parent you’ve never met. That is where art may be found. It takes a special kind of maturity to recognize that at the age of 25, as Hansen-L0ve did.