Ackerman and The Meetings of Anna

The art of implication in cinema is often an essential element for successful filmmaking. As a writer it is much easier to simply employ the use of expository dialog, or blatantly significant actions to expose character traits or plot points. This is also a much simpler experience for the viewer, as all of the information is readily available leaving the need for very little mental effort. However, films that do so are in some regard shortchanging film as a medium. They are often cheesy and unrewarding for the viewer. Film has the ability to hold an extremely large amount of information in a single shot, both apparent, and implied. Truly great films are those which use this ability to its fullest.

Chantal Ackerman’s The Meetings of Anna comes surprisingly close to repeating the success of her masterpiece Jeanne Dielman using the powers of implication expertly. Every shot in the film is calculated, and precise. You can tell that nothing is unintentional. The movie is about a young female filmmaker named Anna who is constantly traveling, showing her films, and meeting various people: strangers, acquaintances, her mother, and a past lover. The film is filled with several long take dialog scenes. These scenes reveal quite a lot about Anna, but often without being explicit. There are hints scattered throughout the dialog, but the viewer must piece the majority of the information together and make their own assumptions. For example, it is implied that Anna has had two abortions in her past. Never is it said, or even blatantly hinted at; it is more a supposition the viewer must make. It keeps ones mind constantly engaged while watching the film.

The cinematography is technically exquisite; Ackerman uses symmetry and balance in nearly every shot. It all adds to the careful attention to detail throughout. The Meetings of Anna as a whole is about loneliness, and a search for human connection. The sterility of the cinematography lend well to this theme isolating Anna from her surroundings. It is impossible not to wonder if Ackerman was making a film about her own life and experience. One of the most brilliant scenes in the film is when Anna is sitting in her hotel room waiting to go to her film’s premier. Anna lies on the bed, looks out the open window, and makes several phone calls. Anna, a famous, popular director is alone, bored. The premier is never seen; Ackerman instead chooses to only show the simple moments spent alone, and it is a much more powerful scene because of it.

Ackerman is a minimalist through and through, yet her movies are extremely deep and complex. She shows very little, but her films say a lot. The picture posses an acute awareness of humanity, it reveals a loneliness far too many of us have felt. The Meetings of Anna is an extreme example of implication over exposition, but shows how much a film can reveal without saying anything bluntly.

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