Chantal Akerman's last film, No Home Movie (2015), deftly distills the filmmaker's key tropes—borders, exile, duration, waiting, transience, Jewishness, home—but none more so than the trope of the mother. Akerman often said that all of her work was autobiographical, even down to where to put the camera and how to frame the scene. This article explores some of her most explicitly autobiographical works (including Letters from Home , Bordering on Fiction: D'Est , Chantal Akerman par Chantal Akerman , Selfportrait / Autobiography: a work in progress , Là-bas , and No Home Movie) to trace the increasingly apparent identity slippages between the filmmaker and her mother. Going well beyond the role of mother as muse, Akerman's films reveal a merger of identification with the mother so profound that her death can be seen to have signaled not only the end of the daughter's filmmaking but potentially of her life as well.
Identity Slips: The Autobiographical Register in the Work of Chantal Akerman
Alisa Lebow is a Reader in Film Studies at the University of Sussex. A documentary filmmaker/film scholar, her research is concerned with subjectivity and questions of the political in documentary. Her books include The Cinema of Me (Wallflower Press, 2012), First Person Jewish (University of Minnesota Press, 2008) and The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Documentary, co-edited with Alexandra Juhasz (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015). Her most recent project is a Leverhulme Trust–funded interactive database documentary about filmmaking in Egypt since the revolution (2015), at www.filmingrevolution.org.
Alisa Lebow; Identity Slips: The Autobiographical Register in the Work of Chantal Akerman. Film Quarterly 1 September 2016; 70 (1): 54–60. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2016.70.1.54
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