read to annie ernaux always embarrassing at first. The novels of the Nobel Prize for Literature seem like an exercise in voyeurism, but after a while, modesty gives way to a mirror effect: you feel that his confessions are a confidence from someone close to you, a woman who could be yourself. His writings collect the female anxieties with a crudeness and lyricism that resonate in their own experiences and seek identification. The moving, energetic experience is now illustrated in pictures in a biographical documentary titled The super-8 years, where he narrates his frustrating married life in the seventies. This coming November 15, the international festival of medium-length films The Valencia Cabin will screen the documentary at La Nau. filmin It will be released in theaters on January 9.
The private family life of Anie Ernaux, turned into a film
In the late winter of 1972, the Ernauxs purchased a super-8 camera. The Eastmann Kodak house had penetrated the domestic market with its motto “filming is easy” and the couple formed by Philippe and Annie decided to document their shared life with their new cameraman, that they had prioritized before buying a color television or a dishwasher. The couple was in their thirties, lived in Annecy and shared two sons aged seven and three, Eric and David.
For nearly a decade they recorded their family life with no sound other than the crackle of the projector. Those fragments of intimate memory needed words to make sense of them and the youngest of the clan has decided to propose to his mother that she rescue his memories to put together an intimate diary of that decisive stage in his life. The result is a short one-hour film that goes from the particular to the global socio-political context.
At that time, her mother stole time from parenting and household chores and her literature classes at the institute to write behind her husband and her mother, who lived with them after being widowed.
“What prompted me to write was the awareness of my class transfusion. The process by which I had become this mother we see on the screen, a well-dressed teacher, living in a chic environment. How had I changed social class and become that woman?“, he shared with TELVA at the last Cannes Festival, where the film was presented in the Directors’ Fortnight.
Annie voiced the off-screen text that accompanies the images of this documentary during confinement: “Once again I have worked with my memory, as I do in my books, but I have done it from a distance, because I am writing about a different woman, a woman who was me, but is no longer me, in a context that is no longer it’s mine”.
The context she mentions is between 1972 and 1981, a stage in which she felt anguished by the conventions of marriage. The camera is always held by Philippe, because her wife was afraid of mishandling such expensive equipment, but above all, “because of the distribution of gender tasks.”
The domestic scenes that take place in the footage hide another reality, that of secretly writing a novel where she describes how education and culture had separated her from the working-class world of her birth. she would title the empty cabinets (1974).
“Behind the image of the bland young mother there is a woman secretly tormented by the need to write. And as I had noted in my diary: gather all the events of my life in a novel, violent and red”, he explains to himself herself and, by extension, to the spectators during the medium-length film.
Trips to Allende’s Chile and the Ernaux family’s Soviet Moscow
The pioneer of autosociobiography it honors the genre and intersects personal itching with summer postcards. Playing miniature golf with his in-laws, she felt out of place in a clan whose wives were all housewives. At the edge of a swimming pool in Morocco, he fantasized that the finished manuscript he had to type before the start of school would save him, but he didn’t know what or how.
The monotonous daily life, which suffocates her, alternates with the recording of trips with and without the children. When the Globetrotter guide was born, a growing desire to travel was established in France, and in the seventies, the Ernaux packed and unpacked suitcases in adventures whose story today seems like history lessons.
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“We thought that we could expand throughout the world and that nature was the theater where we could express ourselves. We wanted to experience all kinds of things, travel and conquer, as well as politically. Later we realized that nature was not a source of unlimited resources and politics now arouses despair,” he confides.
The stunned trip to a communist Albania, the fear that ETA would puncture their tires in democratic Spain, Soho dotted with striptease clubs in seventies London and, oh, the exciting socialist experience in Chile. During their visit to the South American country, they visited nationalized factories, mixed with the people of a self-managed population and met Allende, who, together with two ministers, developed their revolutionary measures for them. A year and a half later, La Moneda had been bombed. The images they recorded belonged to a country that no longer existed. They were a bitterly dashed dream.
In Corsica he began to sketch the frozen woman (1981), about her life assigned since marriage to the role of caretaker, administrator in silence, “while I had been raised to believe in freedom and equality with men”, she hurts.
Once that novel was published, their married life took a turn and degraded. The reels of his trip to Portugal capture it this way, due to the absence of faces and bodies in the images, voids that invoke the distance between the Ernaux.
In the fall of 1981 they would share their last escapade. After meeting Moscow, the marriage collapsed. They both agreed that the kids would stay with her. Phillipe took the camera with him. She left him the projector, the screen and the film reels. Annie was left as the guardian of her shared memory, which she now shares with the audience.