Biographie Chantal Akerman


Chantal Akerman
©Jean-Michel Vlaeminckx

Geboren am 6. Juni 1950 in Brüssel. Besuch eines Lyceums in Brüssel. Mit 15 Jahren sieht sie den Film "Pierrot le Fou" von Jean-Luc Godard und wird angeregt, selbst Filme zu drehen. Für vier Monate besucht sie die Film-Hochschule in Brüssel (INSAS). Nach eigenen Aussagen hat sie dort keine Anregungen erhalten. 1971 längerer New-York Aufenthalt und Beschäftigung mit den Filmen von Stan Brakhage, Michael Snow und Jonas Mekas. Seit 1968 dreht sie Filme.

Born Brussels, 6th June 1950. Education Attended INSAS film school, Brussels, 1967-68; studied at Universite Internationale du Theatre, Paris, 1968-69. Career 1971-Blow up My Town entered in Oberhausen festival; 1972-lived in New York; 1973-returned to France; 1997-instructor at Harvard University. Address c/o National Tourist Office, 61 Rue de Marche Aux Herbes, Brussels, B1000, Belgium.

At the age of 15 Chantal Akerman saw Godard's Pierrot le fou and realized that filmmaking could be experimental and personal. She dropped in and out of film school and has since created short and feature films for viewers who appreciate the opportunity her works provide to think about sounds and images. Her films are often shot in real time, and in space that is part of the characters' identity.
During a self-administered apprenticeship in New York (1972-73) shooting short films on very low budgets, Akerman notes that she learned much from the work of innovators Michael Snow and Stan Brakhage. She was encouraged to explore organic techniques for her personal subject matter. In her deliberately paced films there are long takes, scenes shot with stationary camera, and a play of light in relation to subjects and their space. (In "JeanneDielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles", as Jeanne rides up or down in the elevator, diagonals of light from each floor cut across her face in a regular rhythm.) Her films feature vistas down long corridors, acting with characters' backs to the camera, and scenes concluded with several seconds of darkness. In Akerman films there are hotels and journeys, little conversation. Windows are opened and sounds let in, doors opened and closed; we hear a doorbell, a radio, voices on the telephone answering machine, footsteps, city noises. Each frame is carefully composed, each gesture the precise result of Akerman's directions. A frequent collaborator is her sensitive cameraperson, Babette Mangolte, who has worked with Akerman on such works as "Jeanne Dielman", "News from Home", and "Toute une nuit". Mangolte has also worked with avant-gardists Yvonne Rainer, Marcel Hanoun, and Michael Snow.
Plotting is minimal or nonexistent in Akerman films. Old welfare clients come and go amid the impressive architecture of a once-splendid hotel on New York's Upper West Side in Hotel Monterey. New York City plays its busy, noisy self for the camera as Akerman's voice on the soundtrack reads concerned letters from her mother in Belgium in "News from Home". A young filmmaker travels to Germany to appear at a screening of her latest film, meets people who distress her, and her mother who delights her, and returns home in "Les Rendez-vous d'Anna". Jeanne Dielman, super-efficient housewife, earns money as a prostitute to support herself and her son. Her routine breaks down by chance, and she murders one of her customers.
The films (some of which are semiautobiographical) are not dramatic in the conventional sense, nor are they glamorized or eroticized; the excitement is inside the characters. In a film which Akerman has called a love letter to her mother, Jeanne Dielman is seen facing the steady camera as members of a cooking class might see her, and she prepares a meat loaf-in real time. Later she gives herself a thorough scrubbing in the bathtub; only her head and the motion of her arms are visible. Her straightening and arranging and smoothing are seen as a child would see and remember them.
In "Toute une nuit" Akerman displays her precision and control as she stages the separate, audience-involving adventures of a huge cast of all ages that wanders out into Brussels byways on a hot, stormy night. In this film, reminiscent of Wim Wenders and his wanderers and Marguerite Duras's inventive soundtracks, choreography, and sense of place, Akerman continues to explore her medium using no conventional plot, few spoken words, many sounds, people who leave the frame to a lingering camera, and appealing images. A little girl asks a man to dance with her, and he does. The filmmaker's feeling for the child and the child's independence cannot be mistaken.
Akerman's "Moving In", meanwhile, centers on a monologue delivered by a man who has just moved into a modern apartment. A film of "memory and loss," according to Film Comment, he has left behind "a melancholy space of relations, relations dominated by his former neighbors, a trio of female 'social science students.'"

Lilian Schiff. In: Amy L. Unterburger (Hrsg.) The St. James Women Filmmakers Encyclopedia Women on the other Side of the Camera. Detroit [u.a.]: Visible Ink, 1999, S. 4-5


  • Aubenas. Jacqueline. Chantal Akerman. Brüssel: Séminaire 1982
  • Bordering on Fiction. Chantal Akerman's "D'Est". Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. Hrsg. von der Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris. 1995
  • Brunsdon, Charlotte. Films for women. London: British Filminstitut, 1987
  • Foster, Gwendolyn A. Identity and Memory. The Films of Chantal Akerman. Townbridge: Flicks Books, 1999