Watch: Inside the Rooms of No Home Movie, Take 2
Late last week, we published a video essay from Kevin B. Lee, chief video essayist at Fandor, about the spaces in Chantal Akerman’s final documentary, No Home Movie. Lee estimated that about 70% of the film took place within the walls of the filmmaker’s dying mother Natalia’s apartment.
To re-orient himself in Natalia’s apartment, Lee reorganized the footage by room. Initially, he edited the video to music, using Schubert’s Impromptu D. 899 Op. 90 No. 3, not coincidentally the same music used in Michael Haneke’s Amour, which also follows an elderly woman’s demise.
But after receiving some complaints, including from the distributors of the film, Lee reassessed the music in his video essay and decided to create a new version without the music (which you can watch above).
Lee explained in an e-mail to Filmmaker that the film’s distributors “saw the video and expressed concern that it wasn’t really representative of the film, particularly the use of music. There’s no music at all in No Home Movie, and so there’s a concern that adding this music sentimentalizes a film that in many ways resists sentimentality despite its intensely personal and emotionally charged subject matter.”
Ultimately, Lee opted to leave both versions online in order to show how a piece of music can define the same footage in two separate videos.
We reached out to Jonathan Miller, president of Icarus Films, No Home Movie‘s U.S. distributor, for a comment about the initial video.
“I watched the essay and I was surprised because there was no commentary on it. It was five minutes of Chantal’s film put in a different order with this very sentimental music laid over it,” said Miller. “I wasn’t sure what made it an essay. It was as if he (Lee) cut Chantal’s footage to make another film entirely.”
As the video essay continues to emerge as an entirely new form of commentary, this particular issue raises questions about authorship and intention. What makes something a video essay and not an entirely new film created from re-editing the same footage? Is it okay to add music to a film without any?
In this particular case, Miller said, “there’s the question of: is it respectful? And is it a fair representation of the film? I don’t think putting that music over Chantal’s film is enlightening about her work or fair to her.”
It’s tempting to hypothesize what Akerman would make of the kerfuffle, but with the late filmmaker unable to speak for herself, perhaps it’s best to let her film speak for itself.