Autobiographical Traces in Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman and Meetings with Anna




Film, Akerman, autobiography, feminism, Meetings with Anna, Jeanne Dielman


This article explores two seminal films Akerman wrote and directed early in her career, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) and Les Rendez-vous d’Anna (Meetings with Anna) (1978), in the context of her later autobiographical writings, Une famille à Bruxelles (1998)  and Ma mère rit (2013) (My Mother Laughs). While scripted many years earlier, the two films address themes later developed in Ma mère rit and Une famille à Bruxelles, notably Akerman’s intense relationship with her mother and the trauma of the Shoah.  The article outlines the key elements of the two films and autobiographical works and then explores a number of shared themes between the films and autobiographical writings.  Firstly, it analyses the two films in the context of Ivonne Margulies’ identification of “hindered communication” as a key feature in both films. It next develops an analysis of the privileged role Akerman attributes to communication within the family. The traumatic and pervasive influence of the Shoa in Akerman’s films and autobiographical works is then examined in the context of her mother’s history as a survivor of the camps. The article then contextualises Akerman’s use of the French language in the context of Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of a minor literature. Akerman’s treatment of the notion of home and her usage of Freudian themes - the oedipal complex, the incest taboo and mother-daughter ambivalence – is examined with examples from both Jeanne Dielman and Meetings with Anna.  In conclusion, the value of a reading of Akerman’s autobiographical works, Une famille à Bruxelles (1998) and Ma mère rit, is highlighted as a means of furthering an understanding of Jeanne Dielman and Meetings with Anna.


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How to Cite

Carruthers, S. (2023). Autobiographical Traces in Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman and Meetings with Anna. CINEJ Cinema Journal, 11(2), 127–148.