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FROM THE EAST

France / Belgium / Portugal, 1993 (MIFF 1994, Documentaries)

Director: Chantal Akerman

This stylised documentary from the (always art) House of Akerman is the product of the director's travels from East Germany to Moscow shot over some six months. Without the conventional documentary techniques of voiceover, commentary or even inter-titles, From The East makes the most of striking composition and heightened sound grabs to catch the nuances of space, expression, distance, movement and volume that go to make up 'the East'. There's more than a touch of Antonioni in Akerman's ability to capture the ominous stillness that characterises a series of cultures at the crossroads. In fact, roads are an important element of this documentary - from the shiny opening shots of cars speeding down a motorway, the film gives way to a veritable convoy of people caught in between places and acts - cycling, ambling, posing, preparing, patiently waiting for buses or trains or just plain hanging out. It's a procession of the personal that marks a political difference. Akerman evocatively reveals the 'East' to be a world poised or suspended - a place of twilights but also of dawns. It is only at the end of the film that Akerman gives her subject the stage - a cello concerto that perfectly complements the elegiac tone that From The East sets throughout it many stories.

Chantal Akerman has avoided the sensationalism typical of so many documentaries attempting to trace the significant changes occurring in Eastern Europe. This is a rich film that never takes the cheap shot at the expense of the former Eastern Bloc. The people that fill From The East stare ambivalently toward, and often past, the camera - looking through the lens at another time or place - perhaps the future, possibly the past.

See also...

FROM THE OTHER SIDE

Chantal Akerman's haunting new documentary focuses on the plight of Mexican workers and their attempts to cross the US border and forge a better life 'on the other side'. ... Akerman sets the story ... More »

PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG GIRL AT THE END OF THE 60S, IN BRUSSELS

Belgium's arbiter of minimalist chic, Chantal Akerman, takes a leisurely stroll through the capital, casting a casual but revealing glance at adolescent anxiety and unspoken love along the way ... More »

NIGHT AND DAY

... ... Considering that she is one of the most con­sistently original filmmakers of our time, ifs difficult to explain the under-currency of Chantal Akerman's work. Put it down to the vagaries ... More »

JEANNE DIELMAN

In the space of a few years, Jeanne Dielman has become known as one of the most important works of modern cinema. In it the director, Chantal Akerman, while using conventional narrative elements (the ... More »

THE MEETINGS OF ANNA

In 1975, Chantal Akerman made Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, and since then, she has been in the forefront of a developing feminist cinema. Les rendez-vous d'Anna continues her ... More »

MAN WITH A SUITCASE

Akerman's Man With a Suitcase, starring herself, is an unexpected mixture of Chaplinesque comedy and poignant self-mockery. ... Returning home to write a film script and desperately needing the ... More »

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