Given her explicit silence about the shoah it is
easy to dismiss attributing interest on her part in the
issue particularly in movies such as Je, tu, il, elle
(1974). The film superficially
highlights literally sexual intercourse and discourse. In
one long scene the male protagonist directs his casual
female pick up in the proper technique of masturbation. She
obliges more or less. An extended lesbian coupling starring
the same young woman follows filling the final third of the
film. These scenes are peculiarly unerotic. This was, I
believe, intentional on Akerman's part. For the film's theme
asserts that sexuality is the only remaining connection
between persons. And sexuality fails to provide for
mutuality, relationship and love. It remains a pure
mechanical, mostly violent, reaction for the release of
sexual energy and tension.
The title of the movie Je, tu, il, elle states the
whole meaning of the film, a movie about pronouns without
connectivity. The protagonists remain nameless. There are no
nous or ils and elles in this work. The
work expresses a world without relationships or meaning.
Speech is almost entirely absent. The "heroine" represents
the extremity of adolescent alienation. For much of the film
she remains barricaded in a sparsely furnished room writing
and rewriting a letter than is never finished and whose
content remains undisclosed. During this agonizing sequence
she spends most of her days and nights crouched in a corner
in a fetal position or lying naked on a mattress.
Occasionally she stops to eat some powdered sugar. Mostly
she waits! In a casual throwaway line she announces that she
waits either for God or for an unidentified other to deliver
a pair of gloves. When the film concludes abruptly the
viewer knows nothing more of the heroine than what one sees
in the opening of the first scene. She is without identity,
personal and cultural, geographic or religious.
Superficially, in Je, tu, il, elle, Akerman endows
the male protagonist with more of an identity. He speaks!
However, his speech is mechanical and monotonic revealing
only a psychosociological generality. All the viewer is
privy to is that although he is in his thirties emotionally
his development is arrested in early adolescent desire.
Pointedly, Akerman gives few clues to context. The time and
place of the film are nowhere and everywhere.
Akerman's female protagonists generally are no strangers
to the numbness and solipsism of the nameless heroine of
Je, tu, il, elle. Nevertheless, in Les rendez-vous
d'Anna (Calling Anna) (1978) Akerman explores the
reasons for the anomie of her protagonists. The question
Akerman poses for the actors is who are we? And who can we
be in this postwar world? Akerman is only slightly more
forthcoming about the film's meaning than in her earlier
ones. Anna's alienation is acute. She chooses literally
never to go home. Although she possesses a Parisian
apartment, she conducts her life from hotel rooms and
trains. Indeed, the whole of the film takes place in hotel
rooms, and trains with only the closing shot occurring in
Anna's apartment. The apartment lacks personal signs of
significance. The emptiness expresses Anna's sense of
belonging nowhere. The film ends abruptly with Anna
listening to disembodied messages. The only apparent
relationship in her life is the tenuous link to other voices
on the automatic answering machine.