Les Rendez-vous d’Anna (1978)

21 03 2008

Chantal Akerman’s career occupies a very secluded space, perhaps shared only with Tsai Ming-Liang and Jacques Tati. This is fitting, I suppose, considering the inner seclusion felt within all the characters in her universe. The overall mood obtained in her films is much different from Tsai and Tati (just for reference, there are more similarly rigorous directors), though. Tati (perhaps only reaching this “group” with Playtime) is above seemingly all else, interested in observing potential comedic material. Tsai works with this too, but the humor coexists with a more poignant and/or painful string. Akerman is just plain bleak for most of the time. Humorless tends to imply a negative connotation but in this particular case, it completely works. In fact, it makes the  small glimmers of happiness seen towards the end that much more rewarding.

Anna Silver is a film director who is out of town, somewhere in Germany, to introduce one of her films. She is lonely so she picks up a business man. Despite his very tender and caring approach, she eventually rejects him. He invites over the next day before her train ride home. She accepts, but after their meeting, their relationship is over. At the train station, Anne happens upon an old friend, Ida. It is revealed to us that Ida is the mother of Anne’s one time fiance  and she desperately wants to see her son and Anna back together. She meets a curious man on the train, spends the night with her mother, and eventually meets up with Daniel, her lover and Ida’s son.

While there are some long stretches that eventually seem to lead nowhere, most of the film is based around non-dramatic occurrences in which pieces of Anna are revealed. Calling this a character study would be an understatement since each scene is presented almost like a vignette and each scene is like a part of a puzzle that when fully put together, makes the movie. Okay, so perhaps I am reading into it a bit too much? Well, if it seems that way then it’s just proof of how useless words are when describing this film, and also how ineloquent I am as a writer. Whatever the case, the depth Akerman attributes to her protagonist is quite remarkable.

The acting obviously plays a big role in making these character so engaging. Even when they occasionally ramble on, they at least do so in a manner that feels sort of spontaneous. When these “rambles” do occur, Akerman makes it a habit to have the camera linger on Anna because the viewer should be concerned with what the words do to her, emotionally, rather than what the actual words mean. Perhaps this is why the film is so talkative in comparison to the other Akerman films that I’ve seen. Within all of her meetings, Anna remains fairly reserved but still so captivating. It is not easy to get use to the excessive dialogue but it still serves a purpose that isn’t completely limited to exposition. Instead, it’s role is much more profound, providing an opportunity for Anna (and the audience) to reflect on life.