D’Est is Chantal Akerman’s first documentary film shot on trips taken as the Soviet system was about to collapse, and echoes her legendary Jeanne Dielmann in its minimalist approach and long, uninterrupted sequence shots. Akerman has said she went ‘while there was still time’—what kind of time, nor whose time, nor if there is any elsewhere, is not known. The film avoids dialogue of any kind—though people often enough exchange words, they are not audible, and never subtitled. It is a wordless winter travelogue through the countries of Eastern Europe, from East Germany, through Poland and the Baltic states, across Russia towards Moscow. The Soviet era has gone, a collapse leaving behind a seemingly stunned, endlessly waiting populace. Akerman alternates between existence in public spaces and in private spaces. She alternates day and night. And she alternates static shots with moving shots—but not just any old travelling shots. Bleak, for sure, but beautiful image-making and laying out of materials, the deft and caring work of a great artist. “In my films I follow an opposite trajectory to that of the makers of political films. They have a skeleton, an idea and then they put on flesh: I have in the first place the flesh, the skeleton appears later.”—Chantal Akerman.
The inaugural Dialogues event in the Looking, Really Looking! retrospective, featuring Luis Croquer and Marat Grinberg, takes place October 29, 2016 at 3:00 pm, in conjunction with this screening of D’Est. Further information about the dialogue can be found here. It will take place at the PNCA Mediatheque, 511 NW Broadway.
Other Films by Chantal Akerman
Julie and Jack, recently arrived in Paris, are a young couple from the provinces who spend their days making love and their nights apart, while Jack drives a taxi and Julie walks the streets, waiting for him to come home. Their vague aspirations take a backseat to their constant passion. “Music” resonates throughout—Julie sings wordlessly …
An in-depth, probing, and sensitive look at migration specifically centered around the deserts of Arizona and the Mexican states of Agua Prieta and Sonora, which Akerman approaches with a characteristically nuanced perspective.
Investigating the brutal hate crime murder of James Byrd Jr., in Jasper, Texas, 1998, Akerman paints a typically meditative and ingeniously powerful portrait of a specifically American brand of racial hatred.
One summer night in Brussels, sweltering heat stifles the community, which draws people out of their comfort zone and into despair. Akerman explores a series of on-the-brink relationships—break-ups, reconciliations—in the context of this hottest night of the year, where defenses are built, but at the same time, are down. Nearly wordless yet filled with subtle …
Akerman transports Joseph Conrad’s 1895 debut novel to the de-colonizing 1950s, in which a Dutch trader doggedly seeks elusive treasure and the jungles of Cambodia come alive.