Les Rendez-vous d’Anna (1978)

“Heinrich: Is something wrong?
Anna: We don’t love each other.
Heinrich: I feel like I’ve known you forever.
Anna: But that’s not true.”

‘Les Rendez-vous d’Anna’, directed by Chantal Akerman in 1978, is a Belgian movie tracing the journey of a lone film director as she promotes her movie across West Germany, Belgium and France. Along the way she has a series of encounters with lovers, family and friends, discusses her personal life, her love affairs and her childhood. Anna, the central character played by Aurore Clément is, like the main character in Akerman’s earlier ‘Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles’, an empty and sad person. She is constantly in the frame and we are witness to, not only her meetings with other people, but also to her solitary moments. Akerman is obsessed with the minutiae of life and unnervingly turns mundane activities into profound character dissections. There is something brave about the amount of time the director spends on scenes, seemingly dismissive of the need to provide drama to the audience, but such is the skill of her framing and the complex nature of the character study that the viewer is never bored by the film. It didn’t have the weird feeling of epic intimacy that ‘Jeanne Dielman’ had, and lacked the shock ending of that movie, but you can still see the DNA of Akerman’s approach to filmmaking, and in many ways the fact that the film doesn’t lurch into excess at the end makes the character presentation even more nuanced. It’s not a movie for everyone, the locations are grim and the colour scheme is dour, the camera drifts in a dream-like movement following Anna. It requires a form of hypnotism to fully engage with the movie, but when you do it is unrelentingly absorbing.

Would I recommend it? Not if you found ‘Jeanne Dielman’ a stretch – but if not then yes. Watch with ‘Alice in the Cities’ for a matching road-trip going the other way.

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