Door 12: Chantal Akerman
This year was a lot about slowing down, even if not wanted our lives had to be led in a different pace. For some this might be a punishment, but others use this to their advantage or even it is part of their art. A beautiful example therefore are the films of Belgian film director Chantal Akerman. One of the key figures of feminist and avant-garde cinema in the 20th century, though she rejected the first label, as she thought the work should stand on its own.
She was born in 1950 in Brussels to Jewish parents emigrated from Poland. She wanted to become a filmmaker when she saw Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le fou, often skipping school to go to the cinema. In 1968 she entered and made her first short film called Saute ma ville.
In the early 70's she moved to New York for a year and got there in contact with - the up-and-coming avant-garde cinema scene around people like Jonas Mekas, Stan Brakhage or Yvonne Rainer. This stay in the Big Apple inspired her to films like her first feature film Hotel Monterey in 1972 or later News from Home in 1977.
At the age of 25 she filmed Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles in 1975 for which she got the famous French actress Delphine Seyrig. The film is about a widow, who works as a prostitute in the afternoon. The subject matter, but also her slow and architectural filming style were groundbreaking and manifested her as a major director. The long shots, the looks from hallways or doorways or the walk out of the frame, which were Akerman trademarks, were already there and inspired the next generation of directors like Kelly Reichardt, Gus Van Sant, and Sofia Coppola.
She frequently put herself in front of the camera addressing the voyeuristic aspect of cinema. Another consistent inspiration for her films was her own mother, who was a survivor of the Ausschwitz concentration camp. She encouraged and supported her from a young age.
Chantal Akerman is also known for her of documentaries like Un jour Pina à demandé in 1983 where she follows the choreographer Pina Bausch on a three weeks tour or Les trois dernières sonates de Franz Schubert in which Alfred Brendel plays and talks about Schubert's last three sonatas. Most recently and also her last film entitled No Home Movie, where she follows her mother just a few days before her death.