D'Est (From the East)

September 24th 2020

Reflecting on her longtime collaboration with Chantal Akerman in the November issue of “Versopolis Review,” editor Claire Atherthon recalled the late auteur’s impetus for D’Est as a project born not of morbid curiosity, but a kind of existential and historic urgency: “Chantal [said] that she wanted to film Eastern Europe, while she still had a chance. She had no clear intention, nothing to demonstrate, nothing to denounce nor to document.”

One could easily imagine the daughter of Polish refugees casting a jaundiced eye on the Soviet Union’s long-awaited fall. Instead, the resulting film fulfilled her non-agenda beyond expectation. In plaintive landscapes and portraits, Akerman captured a brief twilight time before erstwhile Eastern Bloc nations traded the relative stability of the Iron Curtain for the materialist turbulence of Western free-market capitalism.

This meditative travelogue is a heady mixture indeed, moving without judgement through the cities, sprawling suburban housing developments, and idyllic country villages of three former Soviet nations — Eastern Germany, Poland, and Mother Russia — as their citizens adjust to disruption and collapse in real time. Far from a dreary anthropological study, Akerman’s prosaic time capsule offers a fleeting view of the calm center in a political tempest. Combining trademark static set-ups with staged tableaux of her subject’s living rooms, bedrooms, and local hangouts, D’Est elevates these mundanities into a sublime realm, offering viewers a welcome respite from our own state of constant crisis.

D'Est (aka From the East) is streaming on OVID