Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1975)

Jeanne Dielman (Delphine Seyrig) is a single mother and a six years widow with a teenage son. They live in the same apartment where she daily receives one man to subsists to their needs. The audience is asked to watch her daily routines for three days and to witness her evolution in three subsequent days.

The epic length of this triptych of a film about not much is a bold demonstration of the woman condition and how this stay home mother managed to survive and bring meat on the table for her son and her. Jeanne’s robotic and meticulous preparation of everything is a clockwork precision that is hypnotic and shows the common actions that we all do each day.

Almost silent, this film asks its viewers to concentrate on the little details just like Jeanne does in her daily routine. As there is not much going on and nearly no dialogues, we take notice of every door let opened or any wrapped clothes that Jeanne didn’t fold. It immerses us in a woman’s life having to take care of her family’s home.

In some way, it is a very feminist film that is centered on a woman taking care of every little details and even prostituting herself to be able to eat and live. On another level, director Chantal Akerman used a entire female crew. A fact that is to note because in films few technicians were female on sets and it makes a strong statement that would lead to a slow introduction to women in film crews. Still today, there are still less women that men and the situation could easily be improved in the future also bringing a fresh breath to the act of creation.

It is important to notice that Jeanne Dielman, the film, is not for everyone in the way that it lasts 200 minutes and not much is explained. It is a great illustration of the Cinema of nothing. Where a series of scenes makes almost no sense in a traditional story line. It is easily understandable how it however became a highly respected film by critics and filmmakers. Akerman manages to make a director’s wet dream of directing actors doing real life actions. With a static camera and almost no sound, only the images and characters are bringing something to the attention of the viewer.

At last, I couldn’t stop thinking about my mother who was a stay home mother and took care of my brother, my father, and I for years and I could imagine her routine just like Jeanne’s. With some differences but I still think that it is a showing of the duty that most women had to endure to support males and the males’ career.
Akerman’s movie was interesting and I admire her for this audacious film that for sure demonstrated new boundaries of the filmic medium. Not for everyone and very challenging even for this critic but highly rewarding in its propos.

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