Chantal Akerman  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Chantal Anne Akerman (6 June 1950 – 5 October 2015) was a Belgian film director, artist, and professor of film at the City College of New York. Her best-known film is Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975). Akerman's influence on feminist filmmaking and avant-garde cinema has been substantial.

She is known for her deconstructive style and pessimistic humour. Her films represent her observations of identity, sexuality, and politics.

Chantal Akermans's parents are Holocaust - survivors from Poland. She dissociated itself also in the picture language and technology at first radically from the usual maintaining telling cinema. Film installation From the OTHER side (2002) was presented on documenta 11.


Early life and education

Akerman was born to an observant family of Polish Jews in Brussels, Belgium. Her grandparents and her mother were sent to Auschwitz; only her mother came back. This was a very important factor in her personal experience. Her mother's anxiety is a recurrent theme in her filmography. Akerman claimed that, at the age of 15, after viewing Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le fou (1965), she decided, that same night, to make movies. At 18, she entered the Institut National Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle et des Techniques de Diffusion, a Belgian film school. During her first term, however, Akerman chose to leave and make Saute ma ville, a thirteen-minute black-and-white picture in 35mm. She partially subsidized Saute ma ville by trading diamond shares on the Antwerp stock exchange. That year, she moved to New York City, where she remained until 1972. Akerman was a leading figure in European experimental cinema and feminist film from the early seventies onwards.


Early influences

At Anthology Film Archives in New York, Akerman was impressed with the work of Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, Michael Snow, Yvonne Rainer and Andy Warhol. She stated that Snow's La Région Centrale introduced her to the relations among film, time and energy.

Critical recognition

Her feature Hotel Monterey (1972) and shorts La Chambre 1 and La Chambre 2 reveal the influence of structural filmmaking through these films' usage of long takes. These protracted shots serve to oscillate images between abstraction and figuration. Akerman's films from this period also signify the start of her collaboration with cinematographer Babette Mangolte, the director of photography on La chambre (1972), Hôtel Monterey (1972), Hanging Out Yonkers (1973), Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) and News from Home (1977). In 1973, Akerman returned to Belgium and in 1974 received critical recognition for her feature I, You, He, She.

Akerman's most significant film, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles was released in 1975. Often considered one of the great feminist films, the film makes a hypnotic, real-time study of a middle-aged widow’s stifling routine of domestic chores and prostitution. Upon the film's release, The New York Times called Jeanne Dielman the "first masterpiece of the feminine in the history of the cinema". Chantal Akerman scholar Ivone Margulies says the picture is a filmic paradigm for uniting feminism and anti-illusionism. The film was named the 19th-greatest film of the 20th century by J. Hoberman of the Village Voice.

Later career

In 1991, Akerman was a member of the jury at the 41st Berlin International Film Festival. In 2011, she joined the full-time faculty of the MFA Program in Media Arts Production at the City College of New York.

Identity aesthetics

According to the book Images in the Dark by Raymond Murray, Akerman refused to have her work ghettoized and denied the New York Gay Film Festival the right to screen I, You, He, She. "I will never permit a film of mine to be shown in a gay film festival."


Important solo exhibitions of Akerman's work have been held at the Museum for Contemporary Art, Antwerp, Belgium (2012), MIT, Cambridge Massachusetts (2008), the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel (2006); Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ (2006); and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2003). Akerman has participated in Documenta XI (2002) and the Venice Biennale (2001). In 2011 a film retrospective of Akerman’s work was shown at the Austrian Film Museum.


Akerman died on 5 October 2015 in Paris. Le Monde reported that she committed suicide. She was 65.


Year Title Length NotesEnglish
1968Saute ma ville13 minutes Blow up My Town
1971L'enfant aimé ou Je joue à être une femme mariée35 minutes The Beloved Child, or I Play at Being a Married Woman
1972Hotel Monterey65 minutes
1972La Chambre 111 minutes The Room, 1
1972La Chambre 211 minutes The Room, 2
1973Le 15/842 minutes co-directed by Samy Szlingerbaum
1973Hanging Out Yonkers90 minutes unfinished
1975Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles201 minutes
1976News from Home85 minutes
1976I, You, He, She90 minutes
1978Template:Ill127 minutes Meetings with Anna
1980Dis-moi127 minutes Tell Me
1982Toute une nuit89 minutes All Night Long
1983Les Années 8082 minutes The Eighties
1983Un jour Pina à demandé57 minutes One Day Pina Asked Me
1983L'homme à la valise60 minutes The Man With the Suitcase
1984J'ai faim, j'ai froid12 minutes segment for Paris vu par, 20 ans aprèsI'm Hungry, I'm Cold
1984New York, New York bis8 minutes lost
1984Lettre d'un cinéaste8 minutes Letter from a Filmmaker
1986Golden Eighties96 minutes Window Shopping
1986La paresse14 minutes segment for Seven Women, Seven SinsSloth
1986Le marteau4 minutes The Hammer
1986Letters Home104 minutes
1986Mallet-Stevens7 minutes
1989Histoires d'Amérique92 minutes Entered into the 39th Berlin International Film FestivalFood, Family, and Philosophy
1989Les trois dernières sonates de Franz Schubert49 minutes Franz Schubert's Last Three Sonatas
1989Trois strophes sur le nom de Sacher12 minutes Three Stanzas on the Name Sacher
1991Nuit et jour90 minutes Night and Day
1992Le déménagement42 minutes Moving In
1992Contre l'oubli110 minutes Akerman directed one short segmentAgainst Oblivion
1993D'Est107 minutes From the East
1993Portrait d'une jeune fille de la fin des années 60 à Bruxelles60 minutes Portrait of a Young Girl at the End of the 1960s in Brussels
1996Un divan à New York108 minutes A Couch in New York
1997Chantal Akerman par Chantal Akerman64 minutes
1999Sud71 minutes South
2000La Captive118 minutes Collaboration with Eric de KuyperThe Captive
2002De l'autre côté103 minutes From the Other Side
2004Demain on déménage110 minutes Collaboration with Eric de KuyperTomorrow We Move
2006Là-bas78 minutes
2007Tombée de nuit sur Shanghaï60 minutes segment for O Estado do Mundo
2011La Folie Almayer 127 minutes Almayer's Folly
2015No Home Movie 115 minutes

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