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Story of Women USA. A Story of Women UK. Une chrso de femmes. Marie Latour carries out abortions for women who wish to terminate an unwanted pregnancy in times when this is illegal. Valladolid International Film Festival: Best Actress Award Isabelle Huppert. Los Angeles Film Critics Association: New York Film Critics Vurso FowlerSandra Voe Vera’s motherVera Drake carries out abortions for women who wish to terminate an unwanted pregnancy in times when this is illegal.
Nomination for Best Actress Neither is it coincidental that abortion was legalized in Great Britain in the sixties and in France in the seventies, since the laws gratus abortion have often been linked to population-related aspects, and it is common knowledge that during war and post-war years governments are quite eager to increase the population. In this sense, the acknowledgment of legal abortion as a health problem has been marked by alleged population needs established by the different governments and linked to moral standards.
Thus, women have been historically deprived of their right to freely take decisions regarding their maternity in cases of unwanted pregnancy. In this sense, totalitarian regimes, among others, have strongly insisted escaparafismo the moral aspects of abortion, relating it to the most traditional conceptions of public order and moral standards, a veil that covered repressive populationist policies 1.
The latter claimed that, while Vera Drake might be a film that defended abortion and its legalization, “its message lost force because of ucrso mental gratiz of the protagonist” 3.
However, other interpretations of the film claim that Leigh “openly takes ewcaparatismo side of abortion ” 4. All this shows that a sort of dialogue or discussion is established between viewers and films, and that when it comes to controversial topics there can be different interpretations.
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My purpose is to analyze the reason why different conclusions are drawn from this process by establishing a dialogue and a discussion between myself and these films in order to encourage potential viewers to engage in similar debates.
For this purpose I must point out that, as other authors have already revealed, underlying Claude Chabrol’s work is the interest in the hypocrisy displayed by a society that claims to defend certain values and acts according to others 5. The film is set within the context of World War 2, in German-occupied France with its Nazi-collaborationist government, all of which makes it easier to bring such hypocrisy to light. In those days in France, abortion was considered a crime against the state, since, in Charol’s own words, Vichy’s regime had replaced the motto “Freedom, Equality and Fraternity” with that of “Work, Family, Homeland” duties, not rights according to one of the characters in the film in his crusade in defence of alleged moral standards.
Meanwhile, women and children were being deported to die in gas chambers and the children of France were sinking deeper into sadness and hunger. These issues are illustrated in the scene in which two lawyers talk about Marie Latour’s case 1: This explicit revelation of conflicting and Manichean moral standards is seen by some as “a pitiful sequence the worst in the film ” and, therefore, a ground for criticism.
The paradox in Marie’s lawyers’ words brings down the image of decent moral standards, revealing the true nature of Vichy’s political regime, where the rights of born children are nonexistent. The fade-to-black that follows Marie’s anguished wait before she is put to death 1: However, as the film reflects, in totalitarian political regimes public health as regards maternal mortality is not a concern, and the moral aspects of the problem, which in this case are closely linked to the populationist policies of the fascist governments of the time, prevail.
This morality pays no attention to women’s needs and the circumstances they have to confront in order to survive and live. In this sense, the problem also becomes a gender issue when Marie, talking about those who are judging her, tells her cellmate: What can men understand about this?
On the other hand, although abortion as a public health issue has served to expropriate women from the right to decide over their maternity, it has also allowed society, under the assumption of abortion as an inevitable de facto reality, to strip it from its moral patina and come to consider abortion services as a technical issue. However, Chabrol has no intention of solving the moral conflict by medicalizing the problem, but he rather attempts to prove the moral hypocrisy and double standards that hover over the issue of abortion.
It is a question of power, of power exerted over women’s bodies. The lack of understanding of a husband towards an independent wife who tries to improve the life of her family as well as her own, and who wishes to make her feelings prevail, leads him to use the power society bestows on him to punish Marie.
The issue is not a moral dilemma related to abortion, but a real life fact that is the only option for many women. This is why Marie’s supposed lack of morality is questioned in several scenes that show how in societies such as that of occupied France, people have to learn to survive and manage if they wish to lead a successful and comfortable life: Regarding the different ways of approaching the problem, the illocutionary force of the cinematographic image triggered the response of a section of the public who held positions that were far from those of the film producer’s and close to those of institutions that, like the legal system and the Church, were presented as examples of hypocrisy.
Possibly, the passionate protests triggered by the film’s release were not oblivious to the creation of strong cases of resistance symbolized by the protagonist’s sacrilegious answer when she whispers a blasphemous prayer while waiting to be put to death: Chabrol claimed that these reactions came from people who ” were undoubtedly against abortion or who defended the execution of the women who carried them out ” 8.
The film also had problems for its release in countries like the USA. When his film Vera Drake was competing for the highest award of the Venice Film Festival and Mike Leigh claimed at a press conference that since the ” main topic of the film, abortion, is, and has always been, a relevant issue, we felt it was time to deal with it directly ” 9he was forgetting about A Story of Womenmade inwhose influence is clear in certain scenes Figures He intended to deal with the issue “in a way that might pose a moral dilemma for the public, so that they don’t just draw black or white conclusions “9; even though the contrast between light and darkness and black and white is often used throughout the film.
This is why, from my point of view, as far as dialogue and discussion are concerned, in the case of this film it is vital to bear in mind the contrasts, the paradoxes, the lights and the shadows both in the figurative and in the literal sense presented to us by Mike Leigh.
Both are presented as contrasts, playing a central role in the medical issue and influencing the view of abortion that is offered. To present these contrasts Leigh uses film language based on a very strong chromatic symbolism: These chromatic contrasts are used to present the different social classes to which the characters belong and their surroundings: These chromatic contrasts used for poverty vs.
Shades of white are used for surgeries, the homes of the middle class, the police station and the prison; the court is also luminous.
In this sense, the fact that Vera’s house is rather dark but the scene turns luminous when the police question her in her bedroom is striking.
On the other hand, sexist double moral standards can also be perceived, since women alone bear the consequences of the acts of the couple, sometimes because their partner does not feel responsible, and others perhaps for fear that he might take a different decision that might bring significant consequences c.
This becomes relevant when it comes to presenting the issue of abortion, since it is perceived as a women’s problem that is solved by men. Men are entitled to restablish order, going from the professionals who solve the technical problem to Vera’s husband who, after assuring his son that he was completely unaware of the practices his wife performed, claims: Nevertheless, in my opinion, the reason for this possible interpretation of the film is more complex.
The possibility of abortion as the exercise of one of women’s rights, the right to control over their own bodies and lives, to decide when they want to have children, a fundamental right in a society that has exclusively assigned to women the responsibility of looking after their children and that has based the shaping of the so-called female identity on the reproductive role of women, is not presented without a hint of moral condemnation.
Compare this still to last scene of A Story of Women Figure 9 endwhich I have mentioned before, in order to assess the different points of view in the approach to the problems posed by the illegal nature of the voluntary termination of pregnancy. Mike Leigh has no suggestions to solve the issue of abortion; however, he does tell us who does it well and who does not.
curao The contrasts build an argument for the claiming of control over women’s bodies and lives by professional agents, capacitated to take rational decisions. Law and medicine play an extremely important part in such control. The relationship between medicine and the law is one of mutual understanding and support.
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The doctor who has to operate on a teenage girl on whom Vera had conducted an abortion asks her mother to report whoever had done it to the police because ” Those dscaparatismo must be stopped ” 0: Unfortunately I’m escaparatixmo to do so On the other hand, the judge assures that “were it not for the medical profession” 1: In this sense, women’s bodies, as the receptacle for the foetus, are considered a public asset that must be protected, even from women themselves.
Women themselves are the source of danger and medicalization establishes control escaparstismo such danger. The medicalization of abortion saves women from malpractice and danger at the hands of other women, placing them under the control of doctors who take supposedly “aseptic” decisions concerning the termination of pregnancy. To treat abortion as a problem related to maternal escaparattismo, as a public health problem, is a way of achieving the intended demoralization in the sense of stripping it from any negative connotation of the act itself, of the techniques to succeed in the termination of pregnancy.
So much so that nuns sisters are the auxiliary nurses that assist abortionists in medical contexts with aseptic efficacy 0: However, this action does not involve the same intentionality regarding the moralization of the women who decide to have an abortion and their reasons, and that of other women who have conducted abortions. In graits sense, the film might be considered an example of how the medicalization of certain controversial issues does not exclude them from the moral level, leaving agents, decisions and non-professional actions out of this moral neutrality.
Here there are different ways of morally justifying the different actions and reasons that lead women to terminate their pregnancies. Thus, poor grxtis are presented: Another of the most characteristic resources of the film, paradoxes, is presented regarding this issue. Certain comments made by Vera and certain scenes where the women who wish to terminate their pregnancies appear dis qualify them at a moral level.
However, despite the fact that the actions of such women might not be considered morally acceptable, Vera concludes that “they must be helped “. Yet, is Vera responsible enough and aware of the consequences of this assumption? For this reason, her jailer offers the following warning as a final piece of advice: Vera’s lack of awareness can be appreciated in several sequences: Thus, the representation policy that underlies this discourse is that of the lack of responsibility and the need for guardianship.
The contrast between the two Vera’s begins with the still shot of Vera’s tense countenance when her husband announces the arrival of the police 1: From my point of view, this image constitutes the central paradox of the film: Although the physical danger run by the women who have illegal abortions is undeniable, the magnification of the danger of the practices performed by these women abortionists seems paradoxical and contrasts with the stated fact claiming that none of the women treated by Vera in twenty years of practice has had any problems, and, nevertheless, danger plays a leading role.
It is the day when she has to acknowledge that what she does is neither legal nor morally acceptable, although she refuses to call what she does abortions 1: The word abortion is unspeakable, only the police use it.
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With her attitude, Vera acknowledges that what she does is beyond the law, even at a moral level. Vera accepts her guilt. Vera never defends her actions, even when her son addresses her saying: They were babies; you have no right.
It’s dirty ” 1: As opposed to the case of Chabrol and Marie, Leigh ends up turning Vera into a person who is unable to question the dominant discourse or to point out its contradictions and failures. Her daughter’s boyfriend, in a short scene, is the only one to rationally defend the right to abortion: There were six of us in two rooms.
It’s fine if you’re rich, but if you can’t feed them you can’t love them, can you? The forgiveness Vera needs from her family gratiw justified because, in her husband’s words, ” she will receive enough punishment for what she did ” 1: However, the condemnation of women abortionists goes further.