No Home Movie: Chantal Akerman’s Last Film, Intimate Portrait of Her Bond with Her Mother

Chantal Akerman, who committed suicide in October in Paris (at age 65), grew up in an observant Jewish family.

Her last feature, the documentary, No Home Movie, was shot mostly inside the home of Akerman’s mother, who came to Belgium in 1938 from Poland to escape the Nazis.

Part an autobiographical account of her own family history and part a work that contextualizes the director’s previous features, No Home Movie world premiered at the 2015 Locarno Film Fest and later played at the New York Film Fest.

The documentary consists of conversations, whether in person in the kitchen, or over Skype from abroad, between Akerman and her mother Natalia, who was a survivor of Auschwitz.

Midway, Akerman cuts to a succession of traveling shots of a desert, which cleaves the movie in two.

Akerman’s mother died shortly after filming ended, at the age of 86, in April 2014. Akerman took her own life a year later in Paris, on October 5, 2015.

Akerman She used hand-held cameras and her BlackBerry to shoot the feature.  She then whittled down around 40 hours of footage to a feature of 115 minutes.

One of the most intimate films ever made, No Home Movie nonetheless relies on formal precision in terms of style and technique.

Akerman is, of course, best known for her 1975 career-defining feature, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, which she made at the age of 25.  One scene in particular, where the two women sit at the kitchen table, eating potatoes that Akerman has prepared, telling her mother that even she an an artist has mastered some domestic skills, refers to a memorable potato-peeling scene in the above movie.


Chantal Akerman Filmography

Hotel Monterey (1973)

Hanging Out Yonkers (1973)

Je Tu Il Elle (1974)

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)

News from Home (1977)

Les Rendez-vous d’Anna (1978)

Dis-moi (1980)

Toute une nuit (1982)

American Stories, Food, Family and Philosophy (1989)

Les trois dernières sonates de Franz Schubert (1989)

Night and Day (1991)

D’Est (1993)

Portrait of a Young Girl at the End of the 60’s in Brussels (1994)

A Couch in New York (1996)

Sud (1999)

La Captive (2000)

De l’autre côté (2002)

Tomorrow We Move (2004)

Down There (2006)

Almayer’s Folly (2011)

No Home Movie (2015)