FROM THE EAST retraces a journey from the end of summer to deepest winter, from East Germany, across Poland and the Baltics, to Moscow. It is a voyage Chantal Akerman wanted to make shortly after the collapse of the Soviet bloc "before it was too late," reconstructing her impressions in the manner of a documentary on the border of fiction.
By filming "everything that touched me," Akerman sifts through and fixes upon sounds and images as she follows the thread of this subjective crossing. Without dialogue or commentary, FROM THE EAST is a cinematographic elegy.
“Monumental... Akerman’s method uncannily draws the spectator in... The people and places of FROM THE EAST may be unnamed, but they are not anonymous: Their images are indelible.” —Melissa Anderson, Artforum
One of the 10 Best Films of the 1990s, J. Hoberman, Artforum
1994 San Francisco Film Festival
“A travelogue through history... Akerman has described this elegant masterpiece as ‘documentary bordering on fiction’; it’s also a purely cinematic monument in time and space.” —J. Hoberman, The Village Voice
“A meditative and elegiac work... Rich in natural sound and a masterwork of mood and environment... Whether one sits and watches for five minutes or for the entire 110-minute running time, one will be rewarded.” —Dusty Somers, BlogCritics Video
“Akerman takes satisfaction in the demanding nature of her films. Most directors feel complimented, she has said, when viewers say they are not aware of passing time: ‘But with me, you see the time pass. And you feel it pass. You sense that this is time that leads towards death... I’ve taken two hours of [your] life.’ After seeing FROM THE EAST, you will consider it time well spent.” —Livia Bloom, Film Comment
"Her camera shows flat landscapes and ribbons of city streets, modulated by the change of seasons, by the succession of day and night. The East is a space of muffled sounds, traversed by the footsteps of passers-by, sporadically pieced by music, laughter and strange interjections. It is an epidermal space: the camera slides over appearances ('like a caress', says Akerman)... The East, no longer monolithically impersonal, is shown as both familiar and completely strange. This is a haunting and, quite literally, extraordinary film."—Francette Pacteau, San Francisco Film Festival
"Taking her relentless cameras from East Germany to Russia, Akerman delivers an impressionistic report from the new front. Displaying her distinctive visual style, influenced by structuralism and minimalism, her journal unfolds as a procession of postcards ...Akerman captures the essence, if not the historical particulars, of a region on the move."—Emanuel Levy, Variety
"A subdued, atmospheric epic of contemporary Eastern Europe."—Frances Richard, Artforum
"One of Akerman's best films."—Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
"If this isn't a masterpiece, tear the word from your dictionary."—Stuart Klawans, The Nation