D’EST (Chantal Äkerman, 1993)

(«tant qu’il en
est encore temps»)

Dennis Grunes

The most brilliant film from anywhere in the 1990s, D’Est (From the East) is the work of Chantal Äkerman, the world’s greatest Belgian-born filmmaker, the world’s greatest woman filmmaker, and the world’s greatest living Jewish filmmaker. Along with Iran’s Abbas Kiarostami, Äkerman is cinema’s reigning humanist, and for more than thirty years she has been going back and forth between documentary and fiction, although her documentaries are highly dramatic and her fictions sometimes seem documentary, and she often lands in some magical space in-between. Like Vertov’s Three Songs of Lenin (1934), D’Est is a photographic essay, a visual survey, of humanity.

Although Äkerman’s masterpiece defies categorization, it is a kind of “road picture.” For it, Äkerman herself took to the road, traveling from Germany to Poland to Moscow, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. She explains that she had always wanted to make a film about…

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