Things to Come

 

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A work of substantial quality that ultimately seems to miss the mark as a comment on the human condition.

 
Things to Come

Isabelle Huppert

 

This is a puzzling film. Written and directed by Mia Hansen-Løve, it sets out with total assurance. At its centre is Nathalie Chazeaux (Isabelle Huppert) who teaches philosophy in Paris. The film depicts Nathalie's experiences after discovering that her husband, Heinz, also a teacher (André Marcon), has taken up with another woman after twenty-five years of marriage. In such a situation philosophical issues might seem incidental, but Hansen-Løve makes them central. In Father of my Children (2009) she drew on her knowledge of the business world of film production but the very different background here seems no less authentic. Marcon has less opportunity to shine than in Marguerite, but Huppert is once again splendid if less memorable than in the very recent Valley of Love and the supporting cast, headed by Roman Kolinka as Nathalie's favourite  student, Fabien, is a strong one.

 

Many philosophers rate a mention giving the film an intellectual feel and in looking at Nathalie's future the material seems to embrace more than the breakdown of a marriage. On learning that Heinz chooses his new love over her, Nathalie tries to persuade herself that a life spent alone is acceptable. Her need to persuade herself of this is aggravated by the fact that this is also a time when her two children are old enough to be living their own lives. Furthermore, Nathalie's difficult and neurotic mother (Édith Scob) is a burden dutifully to be borne. In addition we learn that Nathalie is having problems with her publisher over a possible reissue of a book of hers, the publisher's attitude reflecting an age when market expectations are seen as more important than quality and substance.

 

So much suggests that Nathalie's future is unavoidably bleak that Hansen-Løve seems to be taking the harshest view of things. We hear the comment that the world is the same only worse and that is linked to the realisation that those who once thought as Fabien does about embracing an alternative life-style have achieved nothing. Late last year the brilliant Tangerines emerged as an anti-war film that faced up to man's propensity for violence but nevertheless expressed some hope, however slight. One comes to think that Things to Come will take a comparable course since for all its negativity it does lead to a birth and to music indicative of peace. In addition the philosophical notion eventually underlined is that if happiness cannot be achieved then the continuing existence of desire for a better state of things should suffice. But, despite these elements, whereas Tangerines successfully communicated its fragile sense of hope, Things to Come feels thoroughly downbeat. Is that really what Hansen-Løve intended? In asking that question, I do not know the answer, and that is why I describe this as a puzzling piece.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Isabelle Huppert, André Marcon, Roman Kolinka, Édith Scob, Sarah Le Picard, Solal Forte.

 

Dir Mia Hansen-Løve, Pro Charles Gillibert, Screenplay Mia Hansen-Løve, Ph Denis Lenoir, Art Dir Anna Falgueres, Ed Marion Monnier, Costumes Rachel Raoult.

 

CG Cinema/Detailfilm/Arte France Cinema/Rhone-Alpes Cinema/CNC/Canal+-Curzon Artificial Eye.
102 mins. France/Germany. 2016. Rel: 2 September 2016. Cert. 12A
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