Saturday, January 30, 2016

No Home Movie

Chantal Akerman: No Home Movie (BE 2015). Please do click to enlarge the image.

    Director: Chantal Akerman
    Country: Belgium
    Year: 2015
    Length: 115­ min
    Rating: S
    Format: DCP
    Cinematography: Chantal Akerman
    Editing: Claire Atherton
    Audio: Chantal Akerman
    Production: Chantal Akerman / Paradise Films, Patrick Quinet & Serge Zeitoun/Liaison Cinématographique
    Languages: French, Hebrew, Spanish
    Subtitles: English by Anne-Marie Collins
    Cinematography conducted via low resolution DV, Skype, and Blackberry.
    © 2015 Paradise films - Liaison Cinématographique
     DocPoint, Helsinki, screener link viewed.
     Andorra: Saturday 30.1. at 12:30

Catalog and website: "Branches sway in the wind. Cars stand waiting in the red lights. It is sunny in the park. Someone is walking a dog. In Brussels, Chantal’s mother is sitting by the kitchen table. There’s no need for words, not in the beginning anyway. When Chantal skypes to her mother from USA, words are finally needed and used."

"Chantal Akerman is a pioneer of the experimental feminist film. No Home Movie is Akerman’s personal journey to her mother’s life and back to her own roots. It is a film about times and places, a collage of moments important for Akerman herself. The film is loosely patterned by conversations held and recorded over the last few weeks before her mother’s death. Mother and daughter talk about childhood, mother’s survival from Auschwitz and everything that followed it, and about life in Belgium. Occasionally the camera stops to film the scenery from the car window. We are challenged to interpret and experience what only Akerman herself could have felt and experienced."

"Akerman became an acknowledged film maker at the age of 24, when she directed her masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), a film following the life of a widower who earns her living as a sex worker. In 2012 critics from the Sight & Sound magazine voted the over three hour long film as one of the best 100 movies of all time. Akerman filmed both fiction, documentaries and short films. No Home Movie was her last film. She died in October 2015 at the age of 65. Media has claimed her death to be a suicide.
" - Suvi Nousiainen / Translation: Tuomo Karvonen

AA: The screen is dark. There is a voice in the darkness: "C'est Chantal!".

I was thinking about Visita, Manoel de Oliveira's testament film, while watching Chantal Akerman's No Home Movie, her final film. Both are films about a space. Manoel de Oliveira filmed his beloved house in Oporto which he had to abandon. Chantal Akerman films the final period of her mother at her elegant home in Brussels.

But the title of this film is No Home Movie. It resembles a home movie, but Chantal had no home. She was a nomad, a wandering Jewess, nowhere at home.

A title that also occurred to me was The Waste Land. There are a lot of views of empty spaces and arid landscapes in this film which is largely shot in long shot in long takes, by the film-maker herself, often intentionally with low definition quality including Skype and Blackberry. But there are also shots of exquisite composition and brilliant light which bring to mind Oliveira's beautiful film.

Mostly the focus is in the dialogue between mother and daughter. They talk about everything: the Polish background, the family arriving as refugees to Belgium, the Nazi occupation, the Orthodox Jewish traditions still observed by the father who respected his own parents. From some reports on this film one might imagine that Auschwitz would be among the topics, but it is the absence of a discussion of Auschwitz that is central to this film. The Auschwitz experience was something that mother Natalia (Nelly) never discussed.

The warmth and love between mother and daughter is genuine and touching. On the other hand, there is a profound sense of desolation and alienation. Mother Natalia was the center of Chantal's cinematic universe. Soon after the filming she was gone, and soon after the festival premieres of No Home Movie Chantal Akerman died.

This film moves me for several reasons. My own mother died a year ago. I was born five years later than Chantal. Both of our mothers belonged to a generation that had experienced war. My mother was not in Auschwitz, but she always told that her childhood ended on the last day of November 1939 when a Red Army bomber flew at such a near distance that she could see the pilot in the eye. She was twice evaquated as a child to generous and neutral Sweden.

I remember the presence of Chantal Akerman in Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä. There was an atmosphere of profound solitude around her. I hope she knew how much her work was admired and respected.

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