News from Home ★★★★★

I recall seeing a review on this site recently that mentioned how much Chantal Akerman lets us into her life through her movies. As cinematic experiences go, her filmography is one of pure intimacy, the kind that helps me connect with her perspective on life more so than most other directors that I can think of.

News from Home is one that has grown on me ever since I first watched it back in February, it was my first Akerman feature to have seen and it was a bit overwhelming in its experimentation—one finds Akerman reading letters from her mother as New York City streets and subway stations are filmed in this aesthetically alluring way. I say this because even though the scenery is depicted in this very grimy and industrial way, it is a backdrop to the personally intimate letters that Akerman reads to us from her mother back in Belgium. A particularly strange dichotomy if I have ever seen one, especially for a film that is as personal as this one. If anything, it can certainly add to the reality contrasting with the expectations one has for a large U.S. city; the success and the opportunities. As the city continues to cover Akerman's life, so does it wash out her view on her roots. Through a mix of both visuals and sound, she can accentuate on this point, further delivering on a wholly heartwrenching experience, along with it utilizing the experimentation on narratives that she has been known for since films such as La Chambre and Jeanne Dielman.

It is quite difficult to fully articulate my thoughts on what I experience when watching this film, but I can simply summarize it as a state of pure entrancement—potently placing my feelings in an interconnection with Akerman's while she puts herself and the mutual connection with her mother out there for us to witness. A connection that I feel similar to ones I have gone through several times with my own subjective experiences. It has only been recently when those thoughts are being amplified even more so when watching this film.

It is a strange experience altogether, one that places the viewer within Chantal Akerman's viewpoint on her life in the 70s while in the U.S., while also letting the viewer identify with what is being shown.

This is cinema at its most emotionally cathartic, one that Chantal Akerman utilizes several times throughout her films, and certainly in News from Home.