Female Filmmaker Project
A home feels eternal. It’s that one place you run to for safety, warmth and solace in the wake of everything else that is wrong with the world. You can always count on a home to be there for you. It exists in a place separate and unique and it is yours. They are also fragile and with time can evolve into hotels. When your home becomes a temporary residence it feels like you’ve lost a loved one. That safety and place just for you is gone and it isn’t easy to find a new one. Losing your home is a kind of death, and hotels have always felt like graveyards. The residents shuffle about only temporarily like wayward ghosts and then they’re gone. The rooms are all made up for residents who will never truly love them and these beds are never more than places of temporary comfort. Time passes in Hotels like still slowly beating clocks until you can leave this place and return to what you would call home, but what are you supposed to do when everything is a hotel?
Chantal Akerman’s Hotel Monterey is a dissection of an empty palace. The rooms are perfectly kept together waiting for someone to welcome, but no one comes. The camera sits in long static shots of the architecture that was built to house people on their way as a temporary home, but the walls echo sadness. The point of view of the camera is seemingly trapped in this world staring at these walls. These beautiful, decaying walls built as a substitute to a real home. Elevators move up and down and people enter their rooms and occasionally peer out at this lost soul but never say anything. They are only here for a short time of course. We move up through this labyrinth of partial respite and peer out the windows looking for escape, and maybe that true home lurks out there somewhere. When the darkness of the night finally lifts and we stand on the roof peering out over the city an additional sadness pours over our viewpoint. The same houses and windows we’ve been longing for are reflected once we got out. The windows are boarded up, cracked and broken and the buildings look filthy. This isn’t the warmth of what a home should look like. We peer 180 degrees looking for something but only find more hotels and nothing resembling a home.
Chantal Akerman’s film is brilliant at capturing that loneliness of having nowhere to head for comfort, and not having that can feel like the end of the world. It’s a depressive state as bleak as those murky walls that cover the hotel, and it can feel never ending. I’m still reaching for a home that I will find some day and being in that in-between state is a trapped feeling. A feeling that is evoked perfectly in the halls of Hotel Monterey
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