Things to come ; L'avenir (film)



I am loving everything with Isabelle Huppert in it lately and this quirky, thoughtful piece certainly did not disappoint.

Isabelle Huppert plays Nathalie Chazeaux, a philosophy teacher who initially seems to have lots of good things going for her. Her and her husband seem to have a solid relationship (he also teaches philosophy at university), she gets along with her children and her rather difficult mother, and she has been in her field for more than a decade yet is still enthusiastic about philosophical ideas.

What becomes clear through a series of events is that she is detached from the ideas and principles she teaches. The viewers get a glimpse of this when she refuses to allow students to have a debate about a current political event insisting that they are there to "learn" about. She fails to realise that students thinking and talking about current events becomes more urgent and real when applied to life.

Despite how many philosophers she can name, to her, they are merely the subject matter of her teaching profession. The film seems to be poking fun at the consumerist culture that dehumanizes the process of production and consumption. Expanded into academia, education is a "product" or "service" rather than an advancement in the way people think about the world and the improvement of character.

Nathalie acts as a passive deliverer of ideas to her students as much as she passively consumes ideas from the books she reads. She is embarrassed and dismissive of her more passionate younger self but she's stuck in the present and unable to move on, like how her and her husband play the same few composers decade after decade, afraid to try out something new or different for fear of failure or ridicule. The modern world is calling on Nathalie to engage and get more involved but not in the way she would like to; the marketing team wants her book cover re-designed with bold patterns and colors to attract more consumers: Nathalie is repulsed.

Overnight, everything changes: Nathalie's husband has an affair and leaves her, her mother dies leaving behind a cat, her book deal is off, one of her favorite students is critical of her, and she becomes a grandmother. We see Nathalie become irrational and child-like, overwhelmed by her emotions, and far removed from the thoughts and discussions she preaches. "But isn't that the most human response?" the film seems to be asking: the views of the audience will vary depending on each person's own experience and that's what makes this film so fantastic.

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