One of the most significant independent filmmakers of her era, Chantal Akerman possessed a pronounced visual and narrative style, influenced by structuralism and minimalism, which offers astute insights into women’s role in modern culture. Akerman’s interest in film was sparked at the age of 15, prompting her to enroll in the Belgian film school, INSAS. Eager to begin making films, she quit school then moved to New York in 1971.
Her first two features, Hotel Monterey (1972) and Je tu il elle (1974), with their studiously static camerawork and minimal dialogue, were early indications of her visual style, which came to full flowering with Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975). Though reception of the film was mixed, Akerman was able to secure financial backing for her first semi-commercial effort, Les Rendezvous d’Anna (1978). Akerman returned to independent productions into the 1980s and ’90s. For the rest of her career, Akerman split her attention between experimental films, documentaries and narrative features. Her final film, No Home Movie (2015), was a documentary about her mother, Natalia (who died in 2014), and her inability to speak about her experiences at Auschwitz. At 65, Akerman committed suicide in 2015 in Paris.