Jean Dielman Chantal Akerman

We Miss You, Chantal

For our first issue, the poet Trisha Low wrote a wonderful, heartfelt piece on the passing of the great Chantal Akerman.

It’s 2015, not that it matters. I’m supposed to be working, but I’m distracted, my lover is supposed to meet me at home, but they’re a half hour late, messy haired and callous, because they like to make me wait. What’s the worst thing that could happen, I ask myself absently, like my Dad taught me to, years ago to calm myself. They could be dead. That wouldn’t be so bad, I think to myself, uneasily, but I know that’s not true. I check my phone because my hands feel too idle. My friend Liz has posted on tumblr – Chantal Akerman has died.

I too remember hearing about Akerman’s death, on a sunny morning in London. I was tired, a little hungover, because I’d been at dinner with friends the night before. There, we’d been discussing Akerman – one of those scarywonderful bits of serendipity – her great influence on all of us. During 2015, A Nos Amours had been running an exhaustive retrospective of her work, which was to culminate in a seminar with Akerman herself. We planned to buy tickets the next day, it was therefore a greater shock when I read the news. For me the year of loss 2016 has been started then.

I first encountered Akerman in my first year of university, when I watched Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels on a projector, with my partner, sitting on a sofa we’d found on the street. It was long, mundane, painful to watch: I had leg cramps at one point, a headache a little later. I felt attacked, the film attacked the viewer, offered no concessions to entertainment: in its very makeup, pace, colours it did not simply depict domestic drudgery, but became it.

For so many, Akerman wasn’t simply a filmmaker, she was closer to being an idol. And now that she’s dead, she’s become one.

Read Trisha Lowe’s essay in issue one: subscribe and support our Kickstarter here.

– Jago Rackham

Image: still from Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels, 1975.