Annie Ernaux/David Ernaux-Briot, France, 2022, 64 mins, Cert 12A
Sun 18 June // 19:00
Nobel laureate and internationally acclaimed writer Annie Ernaux transforms her home movies into a fascinating exploration of self and family life.
The Super 8 Years is a record of lives lived between 1972 and 1981. Annie Ernaux, working with her son David, has drawn together footage that was mostly shot by her ex-husband (and David’s father) Philippe. It’s a detailed account of domestic family life, at home and abroad, while also recording the period when Ernaux first became a published author. As a result, the film ultimately becomes a record of a marriage in a state of gradual decline, as well as the blossoming of her writing career.
"In re-viewing our super eight films, shot between 1972 and 1981, it occurred to me that they comprised not only a family archive but a testimony to the pastimes, lifestyle and aspirations of a social class in the decade after 1968. I wanted to incorporate these silent images into a story which combined the intimate with the social and with history, to convey the taste and colour of those years." [Annie Ernaux]
Like Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words, which also used home movies to explore a public figure’s private life, The Super 8 Years transcends its source material with an artfully crafted voiceover. Ernaux’s steadfastly unsentimental prose style is evident in the forensic details that make her narration so compelling. Often at odds with the images – or adding textures, depth and context that give meaning to ambiguous expressions or sideways glances – Ernaux guides us through her experience of the events captured and her feelings about what took place, adding another layer of subjectivity to the footage that Philippe chose to shoot.
Like any home movie, the earliest moments play like a performance. Initially encounters with the camera find Ernaux, her children and others hiding their unease with masks – exaggerated expressions and movements. But with familiarity comes ease and, as the years pass, the footage, accompanied by the words of Ernaux’s older, more experienced and perhaps wiser self, evinces subtleties that were likely missed at the time, but now resemble the kernels of unhappiness that would forever change these lives.