The situation of a woman in denial captured through Charlotte Rampling's ability to inhabit this character in depth.


Charlotte Rampling


The face that dominates in this movie could be said to be that of Charlotte Rampling but, to the great credit of this splendid actress, we think of it as the face of Hannah, the person she is playing. Andrea Pallaoro's film set in Belgium is a character study which puts the elderly housewife Hannah screen centre: it is a work that he wrote with Orlando Tirado hoping from the start that he would be able to persuade Rampling to take the title role. That his wish was apt indeed will be obvious to everyone who sees this film and, indeed, it was confirmed when her performance in it earned her the Best Actress prize at the Venice Film Festival in 2017.


The fact that Hannah has taken so long to get a release here is hardly surprising since it is a work of specialised appeal being a conscious exercise in minimalistic cinema. What that means is not only that little happens in the film in the way of action but that dialogue itself is very limited: we are given hints rather than clear statements about events that have occurred and have coloured Hannah's life ever since. Since the film invites the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions as it proceeds, it is best to approach this piece without detailed knowledge of its concerns. But it can be said that Hannah is an isolated figure once her husband (André Wilms) is in jail while the fact that her son is at odds with her cuts her off from both him and a grandchild. She does have a pet dog, goes swimming and attends an amateur acting group, but the greater part of her life is taken up by the daily routines of somebody living alone. By concentrating so much on her repetitive domestic life Hannah has evoked comparisons, not necessarily favourable, with that classic example of minimalism Chantal Akerman's 1975 film Jeanne Delman 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles.


For my own part, I prefer the more succinct Hannah to Akerman's exceedingly long movie and, both visually and stylistically, I felt that Andrea Pallaoro knew exactly what he was doing. However, that still leaves it to every individual viewer to decide if what he is giving us is of value or not. While no absolutely clear answers emerge, we do by the close have a good idea of what it is that is distressing Hannah and in the meantime Pallaoro has given us a very persuasive portrait of a woman who, to avoid facing up to harsh realities, is enmeshed in a state of denial that she cannot overcome. Since Hannah can't confide her thoughts, the film finds indirect ways of implying what they might be: a play that she is rehearsing has a bearing on her own situation and, a bit heavy-handedly in this slice of realism, a beached whale takes on a symbolical relevance. Beyond that, it is an open question as to how effective it can be when we are expected to identify with a woman's inner turmoil given that at some level of consciousness she is aware of its cause while we have to put the pieces together for ourselves as best we can. Without Rampling it might have been a misguided hope that this could be achieved and, even as it is, I am aware that Hannah falls short of being any kind of a masterpiece. Nevertheless, her presence and Pallaoro's assurance make this a film worth seeing - provided, of course, that works which are minimalistic to this degree appeal to you.




Cast: Charlotte Rampling, André Wilms, Stéphanie Van Vyve, Simon Bisschop, Jessica Fanhan, Fatou Traore, Jean-Michel Balthazar, Gaspard Savini, Julien Vargas, Luca Avallone, Miriam Fauci.


Dir Andrea Pallaoro, Pro Andrea Stucovitz, John Engel and Clément Duboin, Screenplay Andrea Pallaoro and Orlando Tirado, Ph Chayse Irvin, Pro Des Marianna Sciveres, Ed Paola Freddi, Music Michelino Bisceglia, Costumes Jackye Fauconnier.


Partner Media Investment/Left Field Ventures/Good Fortune Films-606 Distribution.
93 mins. Italy/Belgium/France/USA. 2017. Rel: 1 March 2019. Cert. 12A.