Annie Ernaux ascended to the top of the literary world following her 2022 Nobel Prize for Literature, and is best known to film fans as screenwriter of 2021 award winner Happening, an adaptation of her novel. These accolades come after decades of success as a writer, the beginnings of which are examined in this short documentary The Super-8 Years.
Curated by both Ernaux and her son, David Ernaux-Briot, this is a compilation of Super-8 home videos that were shot around the 70s and 80s, when Ernaux was beginning her career as a writer. Looking after two children, Ernaux is pictured on family holidays and in intimate moments, filmed in the same shaky, close up amateur style that crafted most of our childhood videos. Holidays in countries across the globe offer a time capsule of the period, while Ernaux narrates her thoughts and feelings accompanying each frame.
For those watching, it’s a chance to see the great woman reflect on a crossroads that led to her fame. She recalls writing in secret, relying on her mother for childcare, and keeping this passion from both her and her husband, Phillipe (the man behind most of these camera shots). What becomes more intriguing are the things not said, such as the breakdown of Annie and Phillipe’s marriage as her early novels are published, and the sense that this is capturing a time before both a professional beginning and personal end.
The Super-8 Years might not be the most focused work of Ernaux’s career, but it offers a glimpse into the kind of personal intimacy that made her so beloved. A compact and worthwhile companion to all fans of her work.
The Super-8 Years is in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from 23rd June.