No Home Movie
Chantal Akerman’s No Home Movie takes its time with its powerful impact, but those who stick through the film’s lengthy static shots and meditative pace will be rewarded with a deeply felt, personal story, which paints an intimate portrait of the acclaimed filmmaker, her mother and their shared history.
The documentary is structured around a series of conversations between Akerman and her mother Natalia. These exchanges take place in various settings; the women chat in a small kitchen or on Skype, distanced from the camera, their faces often obscured and poorly lit. They begin by discussing everyday topics, as if building up the courage to move on to more difficult subjects. Natalia describes in vivid detail the slow takeover of Poland by the Nazi invaders and the gradual marginalisation of Jews, but Akerman does not edit directly to each interview’s most dramatic moments, rather letting each run as it was originally filmed. Natalia’s memories of the Holocaust arise naturally among conversations about relatives and domestic life.
Hailed as a master of slow cinema since her landmark Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, Akerman employs a typically unhurried approach here, punctuating each dialogue scene with prolonged, near-silent landscape shots, allowing the viewer to digest what has just been said. These shots contrast with the claustrophobia of Natalia’s home in which most of the scenes are filmed: we see both an intimate portrait of her relationship with her daughter, but also how the two have grown apart and become disconnected over time.
The movie is constantly overcast by the shadow of death, taking on additional melancholic symbolism, whether in the names of the many lost friends and relatives of the Akermans, or by the recent passing of both mother and daughter. The title would suggest an attack on the home movie format, but instead the film becomes an affectionate homage to the pastime, with its ability to immortalise and sentimentalise everyday moments. We are as confined to Natalia’s home as she is, but get to know her better for it.
No Home Movie is released nationwide on 24th June 2016.
Watch the trailer for No Home Movie here: