Marion Hänsel and her smile we can’t forget

by Giorgio Gosetti

Paris in the spring of 2010: Marion Hänsel accompanies us to a screening of her new film, Noir Océan (Black Ocean). A tale of male bonding on a warship and the confining routine of three young men's life at sea, the film features a sensual, emotion-filled subtext handled by the director with a restraint bordering on detachment, along with an underlying tension only dispelled when the ship's mission as it circles the globe becomes clear: France's segret nuclear experiments in Polynesia. The real star of the film is the ocean itself: both a home and a prison, amniotic fluid and nature at its freest.

In no time we became fast friends with Marion and Sylvain Auzou. Marion was a strong woman who spoke her mind, a ‘tomboy' with a soft side. I fell in love with her film and the overwhelming sense of freedom it conveys. Surprisingly, this habituée of the world's leading festivals accepted Giornate's invitation and lavished her immense vitality on the Villa degli Autori. And on an auteur-studded lineup (Denis Villeneuve, Bertrand Blier, Danis Tanović, and Seren Yüce, winner of the De Laurentiis Award), Marion was a standout in all ways.

In the years to come, Marion would become fond of our own little "pirate ship" and never missed an occasion to send us her latest films, be they up for the Giornate lineup or not. The woman whose very first film, Le lit, came out to critical and popular acclaim; the filmmaker whose picture Dust had won the Silver Lion at Venice in 1985 and whose Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea had vied for the Palme d'Or at Cannes; the director whose film Tenderness won over fans and critics once again - had a soft spot for Giornate, and the feeling was mutual. We miss her firm, limpid gaze, her deep voice and strong grip, her sheer talent and unquenchable curiosity, her rebel soul and shyness as an actress.

Just a year ago, Marion shared her personal diary with us, loaded with pictures and reminiscences. That may be all we have now, but a woman like Marion, so vital, so passionate, is not one you can forget. I regret the way our friendship came in snatches, as so often happens when you catch up from one festival to the next. The first mournful text appeared on my cellphone on Tuesday night, from Sylvain. The second was from Daniela Elstner, who, with her unflagging enthusiasm, had brought Marion's films to the world's attention. Now the world's film community sends her off, from her native Belgium and France, where she found success, to all those everywhere stirred by her films. It may sound rhetorical, but let it be shouted from the rooftops: she was a great woman.