Chantal Akerman, Letters Home, 1986, 104 minutes
Monday, April 18, 2016
@ 6:15 PM

Visual Arts Presentation Lab, SME 149

In 1975, Sylvia Plath’s mother published Letters Home: Correspondence 1950-1963, an edited volume of her late daughter’s letters. In 1979, Rose Leiman Goldemberg wrote Letters Home, a play which addressed the factual and psychic dissonance between the Plath the public knew from her writings and work, and the dutiful one her mother wished to capture. When the play first opened in New York, the New YorkTimes noted that even if Plath might have been located elsewhere when the letters were written, in the play “physically she is walking into her mother's parlor, there to clasp mother's hands lovingly, pile up pillows so that mother can unpile them, and lie upended on the sofa, loose hair trailing about the floor.”

Akerman’s 1986 film Letters Home is an adaptation of theater director Françoise Merle’s rendition of the play, which was staged in Paris in 1984 with actress Delphine Seyrig and her niece Coralie performing the roles of mother and daughter. Letters Home (1986) interconnects with the principal preoccupations of Akerman’s life and work—the role of the mother, the intimacy of epistolary exchange, and personal despondency—representing an important counterpoint to her films News From Home (1977) and No Home Movie (2015).

Image caption: Akerman and Delphine Seyrig on the set of Letters Home, 1986