Chantal akerman en anglais

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Discuss the complex treatment of identity and exile in Les Rendez-vous d’Anna and Histoires d’Amerique

Both films highlight the themes of identity and exile but in different ways and to different degrees. Nomadism is a recurring theme throughout both films and is of primary importance in pointing to the challenges facing individuals both in exile and in search of identity. Another centralelement in the two films which ties to problems of exile and identity is the depiction of Jews and the Diaspora of Eastern European Jews who exiled from their native countries to the west to avoid the Holocaust and the harsh treatment of Jews during the Second World War. The films focus mainly on how the second generation Jews of the Diaspora have been affected and have responded to exile in thewest, particularly in New-York, which is exemplified in Histoires d’Amerique. The issue of memory will have to be discussed. It is important to note that it is almost impossible to discuss the treatment of identity separately to exile as they go hand in hand. In Histoires d’Amerique, exile has caused individuals to question their sense of identity whereas in Rendez-vous d’Anna it will be argued thatloss of identity has caused a social exile, whether voluntary or involuntary. Therefore, both exile and identity in the films will be discussed concurrently.

Cinematic references are perhaps more key in Histoires d’Amerique than in Les Rendez-vous d’Anna in portraying exile and identity. Ironically, not much is shown to the viewer in images, but the very fact that not much is shown says thatthis film is more “realistic” than Les Rendez-vous d’Anna forcing the viewer to focus their attention more on what the characters have to say - which is what embodies the film. While in Les Rendez-vous d’Anna there is more scenery shown and more character movement - through trains and train stations especially but also through meetings in cafes, hotels, big cities, cars and the countryside -Histoires d’Amerique is set in New-York and only dark backgrounds are shown, all in obscure yet sometimes very symbolic places of New-York; from a back alley in the ghetto depicting the deepest sense of Americanism in downtown New York City, to the Williamson Bridge which is symbolic in exemplifying the Jewish community’s journey from East to West and a well-known architectural monument of New York.The clever way Akerman uses the camera is of utmost importance. By keeping the camera at a distance and not “shot through the keyhole” she is forcing the audience to occupy the space occupied by the camera as she shows what goes on; thus making the film more realistic, less conventional to Hollywood style and creating more a sense of documentary and thereby shedding more emphasis on exile andlost identity as part of human life. As Foster notes about Les Rendez-vous d’Anna: “the film encourages a cerebral audience identification, rather than a ‘pleasurable’ passive audience experience.” Foster’s statement is also true of Histoires d’Amerique as shall be discussed. Moreover, the naturalistic sound and the lack of a mainstream narrative in both films are further ways in which Akermanattempts to illuminate the reality of what is being filmed.

The journey from east to west is emblematic. It represents the trip the Jewish community made before, during and after the 2nd World War. In Les Rendez-vous d’Anna, Anna is making this trip from Eastern Europe and back to Paris. It is symbolic in that it represents the journey of survival and freedom. As a result, it acknowledges theconcern of the Jewish question and simultaneously raises the question of whether or not Anna and the other characters are searching for identity especially considering the context: they now live in the contemporary world, thirty years after the end of the war and the Holocaust. Histoires d’Amerique as it is only set in New York, implicates even more so the settled life of the exiled in a western...
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