Letting you discover Marie Trintignant is something that means a lot to me because this will tell you about my first feminist model. This woman was a French actress engaged in feminist issues, under the aegis of her mother, a national feminist figure. Marie Trintignant died in 2003, beaten to death by her partner. She left four children.
Marie Trintignant was the daughter of the French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant and of the filmmaker and writer Nadine Trintignant, who is one of the signatories of the Manifesto of the 343 in April 1971 for abortion rights.
Marie began to act in her parents’ movies very early, and in 1988, she performed in a supporting role, playing a prostitute in Une affaire de femmes. This film tells the true story of a mother during the German occupation of World War II who, in order to survive, became an abortionist, and was guillotined for that work.
In 2000, Marie Trintignant starred in a film in three parts, written with her mother: Victoire ou la douleur des femmes (Victoria or the pain of women). She played a young woman, Victoire, who gives herself to her fiancé before he goes to the battlefront. She becomes pregnant, and abortion fails. Rejected by her mother, Victoria flees to Paris, where she studies and becomes a gynecologist and is actively involved in the struggle for contraception and abortion rights.
In 2003, Marie appeared in the movie Janis and John; this film was directed by Samuel Benchetrit, her last husband and father of her fourth son. She played the role of a woman who pretends to be Janis Joplin, and Marie sang for this occasion. But if I had to speak about one movie, it would be Victoire ou la douleur des femmes.
Her feminist commitment
Marie defined herself as a realistic utopian. About abortion she had said, “A woman who has an abortion, it is never gay. So everything must be done to alleviate it.”
Victoire ou la douleur des femmes tells women’s struggle for the right to choose what to do with their bodies, from the late 1930s to the middle of the 1970s. These generations of women fought with tenacity with the belief that motherhood is a choice.
When Victoire ou la douleur des femmes was broadcast on television, I was in high school. I lived in an enclosed world, a kind of ghetto. I had absolutely no feminist examples around me. I did not really know what feminism was, despite a growing interest for it. The day after the second episode of Victoire ou la douleur des femmes, I spoke about it with enthusiasm with some girls. In fact, for me it was a revelation. It really was. I explained this, and I wondered, “What do you think?” I was at best ignored, at worst despised. But anyway, a girl came up to me and said, ”Me too, I liked this movie, although it is sad.”
Gisele Halimi, a lawyer and president of the feminist group Choisir (“To Choose”), paid tribute to Marie’s struggle:
“Marie Trintignant died. She was young, beautiful, and independent. […] She embodied a young woman who awoke to feminist consciousness. Who refused to abdicate her dignity as a woman, even in love. She chose to stand up in a major trial, the right to abortion. Claiming freedom of freedoms: the right to ‘choose.’”
(Extract from Le Monde, August 4, 2003)
Marie or women’s pain
In summer 2003, for the shooting of Colette, une femme libre (Colette, a free woman), Marie Trintignant was in Vilnius with her boyfriend Bertrand Cantat, lead singer of rock band Noir Désir. On the night of July 26 to 27, Cantat beat her, and she fell into a deep coma. No emergency medical services were called until seven hours later. Marie was brought back to France on July 31 in a state of brain death as a result of cerebral edema caused by the blows followed by a deep coma. An operation of the last hope was attempted, but she died the next day, August 1, 2003.
Every three days, in France, a woman dies under the blows of her partner. Marie Trintignant’s death brought attention to this taboo subject and raised awareness among victims. In a rather sinister twist, Noir Désir’s record saw their record sales double due to the tragedy. Marie Trintignant’s murderer, Bertrand Cantat, was sentenced in March 2004 to eight years of prison. He received a parole for good behavior in October 2007 after serving half his sentence. Nadine Trintignant opposed the release by sending a long letter to the judge, in which she deplored a “wrong signal” regarding violence against women.
Marie Trintignant was, in my humble opinion, really a unique person. She was not only an exceptional actress able to distinguish herself in different ranges, she was also a militant woman able to fight for a cause that wasn’t very supported in her environment.
I still see her at the end of Victoire ou la douleur des femmes, explaining that nothing is gained, and we must continue the fight. She took the example of the United States and the murders of doctors performing abortions. At that moment I knew almost nothing about feminism, its history, its challenges, its theories, and I had nobody with whom to share what I had just learned. So I simply said: “My God, how is it possible that somebody wants to kill people who spend their days saving lives?” It was the beginning of a quest. Huge thanks to Marie.
*Dear Marie, thank you