D’EST (UKRAINIAN MNEMONIC)

Lviv, L’viv, L’vov, Lwów, Lemberg

This may seem terrifying and insignificant but in the midst of this I will show faces which as soon as they are isolated from the masses express something still untouched and often the opposite of this uniformity  which strikes you sometimes in the crowds, marching off-ward. The opposite of our uniformity too. Without getting too sentimental I would say that there are still faces that offer themselves, occasionally effacing a feeling of loss, of a world poised on the edge of the abyss, which sometimes takes hold of you when you cross “the East” as I have just done it.

You must always write when you want to make film, although you know nothing of the film you want to make. Yet, you already know everything about it. But you don’t realize this. Fortunately, I would say. Only when it is confronted with the act of making will it reveal itself. Groping along sputtering in a state of blind and limping hesitation. Sometimes in a flash of self-evidence. And slowly we all realize that it is always the same thing that is revealed. A little like the primal scene. And the primal scene for me, although I fight against it and end up in a rage, I have to face facts. It is far behind or always in front of all images barely covered by other, more luminous or even radiant ones. All images of evacuation, of  walking in the snow with packages toward an unknown place, of faces and bodies placed one next to the other, of faces flickering between robust life and the possibility of a death which would strike them down without their having asked for anything. And it is always like that. Yesterday, today and tomorrow, there were, there will be, there are at this very moment people whom history (which no longer even has a capital H) has struck down. People who were waiting there, packed together, to be killed, beaten or starved or who walk without knowing where they are going, in groups or alone. There is nothing to do. It is obsessive and I am obsessed. Despite the cello, despite cinema.

Once the film is finished I said to myself, “So, that’s what it was: that again.”

– Chantal Akerman, “On D’Est” – quoted in “Memory Once Removed: Indirect Memory and Transitive Autobiography in Chantal Akerman’s D’est” by Alisa Lebow

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