Tuesday, March 19, 2024 at 7:30pm
Christine Smallwood on La Captive

361 Stagg Street, Suite 407, Brooklyn

In Chantal Akerman’s mesmerizing and strange film La Captive, an adaptation of Marcel Proust’s La Prisonnière, a wealthy writer named Simon grows increasingly jealous and paranoid, obsessed with his girlfriend Ariane’s bisexuality. One of the notable things about their relationship is that Simon is most attracted to Ariane when she is asleep.

Sleep is a form of separation, a death in life. In Proust’s novel, Marcel famously delays going to bed. As a child, Akerman was so scared to fall asleep that she used to ask her mother Natalia to say “Bonne nuit, Chantal,” again and again, until it was said in just the right way.

This illustrated lecture, adapted from my book La Captive, published this month by Fireflies Press, will examine moments across Akerman’s work about sex, sleep, separation, mothers, and grandmothers. What is it about a woman asleep that so ignites desire? In Jeanne Dielman, why does Jeanne’s teenage son, as she tucks him in at bedtime, suddenly begin talking about his childhood fear of his father “thrusting” inside Jeanne? In Les Rendez-vous d’Anna, what is the meaning of the haunting conversation between Anna and her mother in the hotel bed? And how are we to understand Akerman’s critically unloved and bizarre farce Tomorrow We Move, in which a mother can’t stop sleeping in the same bed as her daughter, a writer of erotic fiction who ultimately becomes, somewhat unwillingly, the mother to a stranger’s baby?

In the documentary Dis-moi, we hear Natalia tell Chantal that going to bed “is not the solution.” But perhaps, for us, it is.

- CS

Copies of Smallwood’s book will be available for sale at the event.

Christine Smallwood is the author of the novel The Life of the Mind and a regular contributor to publications such as The New York Review of Books, Harper’s, Bookforum and The New York Times Magazine.


Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm. No entry 10 minutes after start of show.