Retro: Chantal Akerman


Chantal Akerman
B 1972
11 min

In 1972, Akerman and cinematographer Babette Mangolte worked on two challenging, self-financed 16 mm works that reveal the director’s immersion in formalist cinema. In the first, <![CDATA[<i>]]>La chambre<![CDATA[</i>]]>, a camera slowly and silently pans 360 degrees around a cramped tenement apartment several times, on each rotation picking up the same objects—a red chair, a table decorated with plates and fruit, a calendar, discarded socks, a sink piled high with dishes—as well as Akerman herself, lying on a bed, brilliant shafts of light streaming through the window behind her. The only figure in the room, Akerman changes her position and demeanor every time the camera returns to her: at one point, she stares into the lens; at another, she looks dazedly off, playing with an apple; later, she tosses and turns under the sheets. Her behavior grows odder, and so, ultimately, does that of the camera, which, on the fourth rotation, suddenly changes direction. This shift may at first seem insignificant, but it in fact holds the key that unlocks much of Akerman’s work to come, in which she creates tension through the slightest visual alterations, encouraging close study from the spectator.

Paradise Films
Paradise Films
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