Tuesday, 7 April 2020

No Home Movie [2015]

Chantal Akerman, best remembered for her haunting and disquieting 1975 masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080Bruxelles, was forever shaped and influenced by her mother Natalia, who’d fled from Poland to Belgium as a teenager to escape the rise of Nazism, only to be later deported to Auschwitz during the war (which she fortunately survived, only to be scarred by it for life). Hence, it’s both telling and tragic that her final work was the simultaneously intimate and unsentimental documentary No Home Movie, where she recorded the last few months in her now aged mother’s life; her mother died shortly after it was completed, while Chantal ended her own life soon after its release. Whereas a more conventional approach would have been to capture the physical decline of her mother’s health, she instead portrayed that through snippets – a mix of candid conversations, random catch-ups (over Skype and in person), silent observations of the woman who’s clearly and visibly slipping towards oblivion, and multiple moments of nothingness. The languidly paced narrative, therefore, was regularly punctuated with sequences where nothing really happen – mix of static and moving shots, often of nondescript exteriors, while at other times of her mother’s sprawling Brussels apartment, including views from the balconies – which imbued a mournful, fatalistic atmosphere and a novelistic feel to it, and constantly harked upon the sense of inevitability. One of the most indelible moments in the docu – shot digitally using hand-held camera and at times even a mobile phone – occurs somewhere in the middle wherein mother and daughter engage in a rambling conversation over lunch, that veered from the trivial to painful memories from the Nazi era and the Holocaust.

Director: Chantal Akerman
Genre: Documentary/Diary Film
Language: French
Country: Belgium

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