He kept it a secret from his family. He faced complete destruction. This film is a psychological study, dramatic without making the point, without a sense of impetus in the Hansen-Løve approach. “Father of My Children” was the first of his films to gain international traction, and it’s a solid watch, even with repeated screenings. The filming is so confident that it’s hard to believe that Hansen-Løve was only 27 years old when he wrote and directed it.
Prior to “Father of My Children” was Hansen-Løve’s directorial debut, 2007’s “All is Forgiveness,” made when he was only 25 years old. In the last decade, with films like “Eden,” “Things to Come,” “Maya,” and “Bergman Island of the year,” Hansen-Løve has become one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. “All Is Forgiven” allows us to see him early on this journey, and it’s exciting to see his style and artistic leanings, already operational and in full form from the start.
The subjects of Hansen-Lve’s filmography are diverse (young love, divorce, suicide, club music), but the main subject is the passage of time. Many directors are time-focused (Richard Linklater explicitly toyed with him in “Boyhood” and the “Before” trilogy), but Hansen-Løve’s interest manifests itself in unique ways. He sees time as a novelist does. A novelist can linger for 20 pages on the minutiae of one day in the life of a family, and then jump to the next generation a page later. Films rarely show this freedom. Aristotelian unity is irrelevant to Hansen-Løve. He doesn’t use flashbacks, and the film is always moving forward, but he does allow time to stretch or shrink, audiences leapfrogging over the years that followed.
“All Is Forgiven” begins in Vienna in 1995 and ends in Paris in 2007, and centers on the experiences of the family unit: Victor (Paul Blain), his partner Annette (Marie-Christine Friedrich), and their six-year-old child. daughter Pamela (Victoire Rousseau). Victor was French, but Annette was Austrian, and for reasons that became clearer as time went on, they chose Austria as their base. Or, Annette has chosen, because Victor makes a lifestyle by choosing nothing.
Victor is charismatic, with a gleam in his eyes; when he sees people, he seems open and curious about them. The phrase is almost “come-here,” in the classic flirty sense. It’s an interesting choice, though Paul doesn’t seem to notice (but maybe it is, perhaps by projecting “here” on everyone around him, Victor avoids facing the void inside). These possibilities are Hansen-Løve’s wheelhouse, and they are present even at the young age of 25. The camera is obsessed with Blain’s face, his responses, his unspoken thoughts, the attitude of his outsider watching. Paul’s arrival is an undercurrent, innate emotional position, and is never explained, or even really commented on. We only see how this person operates, how he navigates the world.
He sat all day. He spoke vaguely of “writing.” He did drugs. He is a compulsive underachiever. Annette said, frustrated, “Why do you want everyone to think you’re a loser? He was rude to Annette. Young Pamela witnessed it all. Annette kicks him out, and he hooks up with another drug addict. Victor talks about his anxiety and discomfort to his sister Martine (Carole Franck), but does so with a hint of charisma still in his eyes. Is he really that worried? Or is he just lazy? Is this all addicts do? He loves Annette and Pamela. What happened to this person? In a 2016 interview with Indiewire, Hansen-Løve said, “For me, making films is about questions, not answers. I guess if I had the answer, I wouldn’t need to write a film at all.”
Halfway through, there is an alarming title card: “11 Years Later.” (Other title cards are more manageable: “Back to Paris,” “One Month Later,” etc.) Without prior notice, “All Is Forgiven” jumped more than a decade. Annette and Victor are no longer together, Annette remarried, and Pamela (now played by Constance Rousseau, Victoire’s real sister) is a college student who has only vague memories of her father. Martine—whom Pamela didn’t remember—reached out, hoping to engineer a family reunion. Victor is in Paris. He’s not as “sick” as he used to be. He wants to be in a relationship with his daughter.
Like his later films, most notably “Eden” which spans a 20-year timeframe, Hansen-Løve is interested in time, but not interested in depicting the effects of the passage of time, through age-old makeup, or even slight changes. in character appearance. Annette looked worse than she did in the first half, but nothing was done to “age” her. Victor looks exactly the same. However, Pamela is now played by a different actress. Hansen-Løve’s refusal to concern himself with physical details (grey hair, wrinkles, jaws, etc.) opens up a world of interpretive possibilities.