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Jeanine Meerapfel’s essay film “A Woman”: The Pictures of Maman

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How did that feel when Maman hugged me? The narrator tries to remember, but it just doesn’t work. The memory is deceptive, patchy. The family photos are always in front of it.

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The sun-drenched scenes from the beach, from tennis matches in white dresses, from cheerful coffee tables. They prove to be more powerful than fragile human memory. “The reproduction of reality has replaced reality,” says filmmaker Jeanine Meerapfel in her documentary film Eine Frau.

Since 2015, Meerapfel has also been present as President of the Academy of Arts in Berlin, where she lives. With “A Woman” the director, author and producer, who was born in Buenos Aires in 1943, comes full circle. As early as 1980 she called a feature film “Malou”.

Mother’s nickname is Malou

It is the nickname of her mother Marie Louise Chatelaine, born in 1911, an orphan from Burgundy, France, who, as the wife of the Jewish tobacco merchant Carl Meerapfel, first went to Germany, then into exile in Amsterdam and finally, after fleeing via Berlin, to Argentina, to Buenos Aires deceives. Her daughter Jeanine also grew up there before she went to Germany.

In Meerapfel’s associative film essay, behind Malou’s elegant appearance, her unbreakable radiance in photographs and film footage, a thoroughly tragic, history-laden woman’s life of the 20th century comes to light.

Marked by emigration and material dependence on a wealthy husband. About the feeling of being uprooted and alien, of the longing for a home and the unconditional will to adapt. When the marriage and the good life are gone, Malou and her daughters slide into a downward spiral of alcoholism.

Meerapfel’s comparison of memories based on family photos is combined by cameraman Johannfeint, who was most recently responsible for the black and white aesthetics of Andreas Kleinert’s Brasch homage “Dear Thomas”, with calm impressions of French, Dutch, German and Argentinian cities, houses and landscapes. A concentrated stream of images and language in which the filmmaker also weaves interview scenes. Conversations with the people who now live at Malou’s life stations.

This expands the personal but never sentimental journey into a kaleidoscope that also tells of contemporary social life. For example, when Meerapfel visited the last, moldy place of her mother, who died at the age of 61, which is now inhabited by an equally poor extended Argentine family.

What remains of Maman? A 24-piece fish cutlery set, French books, clothing, letters and the question of whether you can trust your own memory.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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