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.