Is there any doubt that Isabelle Huppert might just be the greatest actress in the world? Never before has there been such an extraordinary actress, capable of being so incredibly complex and layered. She has been having quite the year, with Paul Verhoeven’s Elle bringing Huppert to a higher level of fame in the English-speaking cinematic world – and much like Charlotte Rampling last year, Huppert is poised to make a big splash in terms of a critical awards-run, and hopefully it will culminate in an Academy Award nomination. I have yet to see Elle (but I am anxiously awaiting it), but in the meanwhile, I indulged in another Huppert performance that shows her at the top of her game – the incredible Things to Come (L’Avenir).
Things to Come is directed by the young and dynamic Mia Hansen-Løve, who (in less than a decade) directed five incredible and complex films that explore the very nature of humanity and what makes us the way we are. Things to Come is the latest of those films, and like the others, it is a film layered with deeper meaning that never once strays away from its explosively philosophical core. Hansen-Løve is known for her extreme attention to human nature, and what defines us as individuals, and Things to Come just further proves that she is a wunderkind filmmaker that has a very long and illustrious career in the books for her – and if she can achieve all she has in terms of cinematic brilliance at the young age of 35, I simply cannot wait to see where her career goes over the next few decades. It is a known fact that we need more films directed by women, and right at the forefront of this movement to get more talented women behind the camera is Hansen-Løve. As long as people like her are making films, I can faith in the film industry. She may not make films that are accessible or endearing to vast audiences, but she most certainly does make films brimming with meaning, and I can easily see Hansen-Løve becoming one of the most influential and iconic filmmakers of all time, because a film like Things to Come solidifies her as someone we should certainly be keeping an eye on.
The story of Things to Come may not be the most enticing – and it wasn’t particularly exciting, and I only took the chance on the film because of Huppert’s involvement and my radical curiosity surrounding Hansen-Løve. I am so glad that I actually gave the film a chance, because while it may not be the most stimulating of material, it is certainly executed in a beautiful way. Things to Come is about Nathalie Chazeaux (played by Huppert), a middle-aged philosophy teacher who is blindsided by the news that her husband, Heinz (André Marcon) is leaving her for a younger woman. Instead of falling apart (as would be expected from a far less incredible film), Nathalie undergoes an internal transformation and makes the best out of the situation, and looks for meaning in life.
Nathalie has various ups-and-downs throughout the progression of the story, such as her frail mother (the eternally lovely Édith Scob, who is iconic for her performance in the harrowing Eyes Without a Face) slowly losing her mind, and the presence of a former student, Fabien (Roman Kolinka). Over the course of the film, Nathalie navigates her own life, taking eveyr challenge as it comes to her, and overcoming everything that distracts her from finding any philosophical meaning in life. It is absolutely correct that Things to Come is a film that pretty much consists of Huppert meandering around, encountering characters and just searching for something deeper. It is a film that does not have a definite story progression, and much of it feels like it is trying to find a point – but it never does, with the ending being so simple and effective, yet powerfully emotional.
There are three kinds of films – and to prove this point, I will be using the work of various French filmmakers to illustrate what I mean. You get the films of Jean-Luc Godard, which are films that tell, through their dialogue-heavy scripts. You get the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, which are films that show, through their visually arresting filmmaking techniques. Then you get the films of Mia Hansen-Løve, which are films that make you feel something, forming an emotional connection. There isn’t a definitive point towards Things to Come – and even the title, in its utter simplicity, is excruciatingly beautiful, and suggests that this film isn’t a complete story – it is just a snapshot in the life of an individual, who can represent humanity as a whole, and her journey to self-discovery. The same can be said of the French title (L’Avenir), which literally means “The Future” – this isn’t a film that is neatly wrapped up by the end (even though the ending hits you like a metaphorical ton of bricks). Things to Come is one of the most arresting films I’ve seen all year, mainly because of how it handles the philosophical undercurrent underneath this film – it manages to be meaningful without being boring, and poignant without ever being overly sentimental.
I highly suggest Things to Come. It may be my favourite film of the year (it is definitely right at the very top, along with Everybody Wants Some!! and Swiss Army Man, similar films about finding meaning in life). It is such a brilliantly composed film, and Huppert is extraordinary. Mia Hansen-Løve proves her talents once again, and I would not be surprised to see her go on to be considered one of the greatest of all time. I am so glad I watched this film, because it is one of those rare films that may end, but never actually leave your mind, and you mull the story over several times, and use the philosophical undercurrent to bring meaning to your own life. Its a terrific film, and I think it should be viewed by anyone who just wants something meaningful to think about.