The Meetings of Anna (1978): Chantal Akerman and A Room of One’s Own

Chantal Akerman’s works are a little out of my comfort zone but after seeing them, I end up with two simple words: honest and worthy. There must’ve been reasons why Chantal Akerman portrays her lead characters as ‘Je’, ‘Jeanne’, or ‘Anna’ seen in respective films. Let me offer a simple proposition: she’s a woman and such performances held in esteem are how she reckons in women. Translation: this is feminism to Chantal Akerman. To personalize or to generalize the thetical idea is left for us to judge.

‘Les Rendez-vous d’Anna’ (1978) is a record of what Anna does, whose monologs she listens to in a day and night, and how she positions herself in such occasions. Okay, Anna is a filmmaker and goes to different places for promotional sake. Aside from the conversation, we would also observe Akerman’s typical symmetrical shots of hotel room interior details, buildings, and stations. Nuff said.

So, what do you see in Anna? During her encounter with the guy in the first part, she refuses to carry on with an intercourse. This is her denial of an idea that is ‘Anna is merely an object’. “But we don’t love each other,” she said. The independence of Anna seems to go to follow through as the trip continues. The second guy, in the train, keeps telling stories while Anna nonchalantly answers with single words.

The Meetings of Anna (Picture: Harvard Film Archive)

The character study marches on as we could see a subtle transformation of Anna is about to begin. Her meeting with Ida is an introduction of both dualism of human and sentiment towards women. At the beginning, Ida rambles on about ‘being a perawan tua is not wise’, and wonders if modern people should live sovereignly like Anna. The irony jumps in when Ida abruptly alters the conversation with complacency against her current state of marriage. Don’t we have this ambiguity inside us?

A monolog slowly turns into a dialog when Anna gets another warm welcome from people who are actually from her inner circle: Her mother and lastly, her lover. I begin to interpret the image of a woman, here as Akerman depicts in Anna, as the one who sets boundary in circular basis, the one who protects themself by taking preemption but still attracts receptiveness at the same time, the one who’s both independent and insecure at the same time, the one who seems lonely as mutant. And yeah, this might be her feminism. For after all, Anna seems happy, in a sense. Isn’t this the endmost surface?

Remember when Anna sings this song to her lover? 
“A little sunshine can be so bright that it hurts.” 😊
Maybe the bleakness the scenes transpire is just equal to the surrounding festivity in Anna’s biz life. Maybe there is always a room for solitude in the midst of a delirious party. Whatever that is, let’s just be honest to yourself.

Christian Putra, Jakarta Cinema Club

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