The Meetings of Anna

The Meetings of Anna ★★★★½

Watching the scene with her mother made me deeply sad. Paraphrased:

"I won't always be with you."
"Yes, you will."

Decades later, Akerman made a documentary about her mother right before her mother died. A little over a year later, Akerman took her own life. So I watched Anna moving through a homogenous Europe, yearning for connection, and I of course saw Chantal Akerman making a movie about another female director. About herself. From all accounts she had a deep and close relationship with her own mother, and I think that's at the core of this one.

All the men she spent (brief) time with needed maternal affection from her. Most mentioned mothers specifically. Ida expresses maternal sentiment by badgering Anna to marry her son. In Anna's final encounter, she walks away from the bed long enough to get Daniel medicine, going well out of her way to supply it. (And how about the way the subsequent sexual element is phrased as comfort? No wonder he rejects it.) It's all about mothers and children.

It's also a movie about the aftereffects of World War 2. I found Heinrich's monologue about his friend to be really moving. We haven't reached Cologne yet, but we've heard it mentioned a few times: one of the German cities most affected by Allied bombs during World War 2. That's the filter through which I listened to Heinrich talking about how the occupation ruined his friend. For me, that monologue set up the anonymous modernist scenes we see throughout the rest of the movie, with barely any history leaking into Akerman's meticulously composed frames. Except for that midnight expedition for medicine, mind you. When Anna manages to express human compassion, we see the great buildings of Paris. Possibly a coincidence, but interesting. Otherwise it's all trains and hotels.

So many hotels. I've only seen one other Akerman movie, Hotel Monterey, which I watched earlier this year. It's an interesting comparison, because while we get the same objective, unemotional views of hotels, the Hotel Monterey is perhaps the opposite of sterile. You can feel the age and lived experiences as Akerman's serene camera glides past those rooms. There's the sense of connection that Akerman thinks Europe has lost.

I liked this more than I expected to. Slow cinema for the win.

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