Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles

Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles

From the dawn of humankind, women have faced oppression in some manner, be it sexual assault, cultural stigma, or second-class citizenship. In a modern world where women can become heads of state, we're still dealing with stereotypes, unequal pay, domestic violence, and the list continues. In Jeanne Dielman, Belgian director Chantal Akerman seeks to illuminate the feminine condition by meticulously detailing the life of the titular subject (Delphine Seyrig), a single mother who dotes on her son, earns money as a prostitute, and adheres to an especially strict routine of cooking, eating, cleaning, and shopping.

The film is segmented into three days and virtually plays in real time, which explains the 201-minute running time. It may sound grueling, but the film is so engrossing that I lost track of time by the end. In fact, Jeanne Dielman is rather meditative, and the running time is essential to the film's thesis, that is, the mundanity of a repressed woman's life. For example, Jeanne does everything for her son: she feeds him, shines his shoes, helps him with his Flemish homework, provides a daily allowance, and he doesn't even appear grateful; he instead asks for a few francs more.

Jeanne Dielman is a greatly innovative and powerful film. Thank goodness for auteurs like Akerman, or unconventional works like this--films with no score, sparse dialogue, all static shots, and a considerable average shot length--would never get produced. It will be remembered as not only a meaningful expression of feminism, but a piece of sheer crafts(wo)manship.

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