Film Review: Hannah streaming now – Exclusive interview with writer/director Andrea Pallaoro

Hannah by writer/director Andrea Pallaoro is a fascinating slice of Slow Cinema. Charlotte Rampling simmers as a woman trying desperately to hold on to her sanity as her world around her collapses. French, with subtitles. 

The Trailer 

The Review, including quotes from my exclusive interview with writer/director Andrea Pallaoro

 

Something is rotten in the state of Hannah’s marriage. Something isn’t right. Her husband is going to prison but the night before she is barely able to make eye contact with him. As we stare on through the awkward silence, transfixed by Charlotte Rampling, we realise that the important question isn’t “what happened?” but “what is she going to do about it?” That’s what writer/director Andrea Pallaoro explores in this unflinchingly intimate character study of a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

Hannah puts on a brave face when out in public; to see her at work you wouldn’t know anything had happened, to see her at the swimming pool, out shopping – she looks like everyone else in the crowd. Even when she’s alone she is putting on a brave face, the tension in her tiny flat is palpable. It is only when she is in her acting class that she is able to unclench her fists and to let out the tension she is carrying. The only other time we see that facade crack is when is turned away from her grandson’s birthday party, homemade birthday cake still in her hands. As Pallaoro explained in his exclusive interview with me:

“Those non-linguistic moments – the acting class – are the only place where she can express herself. Hannah’s performances are the only places where she can express herself, otherwise she is very quiet, very reserved, very repressed.”

 

Because of the isolation of the character – and the intimate nature of the story being told – the film is largely carried by the on-screen presence of Charlotte Rampling. She is able to bring incredible depth to the character; the tension in her eyes, the heaviness of her sighs, the tightness of her jaw are all wonderfully capture the depth of feeling felt by her character. No wonder then, that she won best actress at the Venice Film Festival for her performance. She works in perfect synchronicity with writer/director Andrea Paolloro, who spoke to me about working with her.

“It was an absolute collaboration from the beginning, I couldn’t imagine anyone else. If she hadn’t accepted I would never have made it.”

“The way Charlotte moves, the way she embodies the character, she brings meaning out; she draws the character out of the page in a way that surprised even me. It was an enriching experience working with her; even though the actual story hasn’t changed the presence she brings to the screen and to the character elevated the material.”

As quietly as Hannah moves her world, her self-imposed exile is repeatedly broken by the scream and cry of children. Whether it’s the noisy children in the flat above her, her grandson’s birthday party or the child in the house where she cleans, Hannah’s defences cannot withstand the assault of children. Does she see their presence as a threat? Does she see their raw enthusiasm as a mockery of her repressed emotions? Does she just need to engage with someone who won’t judge her the way adults do? Or is she afraid of what people will say if they see her with children, considering what her husband has been accused of? That’s for you to decide, but Rampling’s performance when she interacts with children is captivating. 

Andrea Pallaoro also makes very clever use of the world around our titular character to explore the inner turmoil of our heroine. When riding the metro she is caught awkwardly between a couple breaking-up, and as the girl screams at her boyfriend we hear everything Hannah wants to say, but is unable to. Also, running in the background of the film is this story of a whale that washed up on the beach and died. There is this huge, rotten thing which people can’t stop fixating on but no one knows quite how to deal with. 

The story takes twists and turns I never predicted, but however surprising the story becomes it is grounded, again – in the depth of character brought to life on the screen. Pallaoro explains why it was important for Hannah to drive the narrative, rather than be at the whim of plot:

“We observe her when she alone, and in doing that we, as an audience, get to know the character – it’s a way to get very, very intimate with the character, without exposition, outside of the narrative. I often see films where the character is pre-determined by the narrative.”

Image result for hannah film 2019 andrea pallaoro

It is not a film I could recommend to many, Slow Cinema expects far too much of its audience for a casual watch. It’s fair to say that you need to be in a certain mood to watch it, but if you’re a fan of introspective films, if you enjoyed If Beale Street Could Talk then this is might be one to sink your teeth into. Or if you’re feeling arty but don’t want to pay for a gallery or go outside then this is the perfect way to spend an evening. If you enjoyed If Beale Street Could Talk then this is might be one to sink your teeth into. It’s not necessarily enjoyable, but it is engaging, thought-provoking and challenging, and considering the themes of the film – the treatment of wives in men’s scandals, and a woman’s place in society – it is very timely.

The Rating 

6/10

About

I have been an avid movie fan for as long as I can remember, from the swash-buckling excitement of Indiana Jones and The Princess Bride to the drama of The Little Princess and The Iron Giant, movies are able to inspire younger audiences, teach them about the world and show them things they've never dreamed of before. I continue to be wowed by children's cinema today, from movies like Moana and A Monster Calls to The Greatest Showman we live in exciting times for family-oriented cinema, and I look forward to exploring it with you.

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