Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles

Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles ★★★★★

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles uses its style to achieve very similar effects as a film I love, The Turin Horse, only with a brilliantly radical feminist lens. Jeanne Dielman is such a groundbreaking film that challenges perceptions of what a film should be and creates strong empathy with relentless arthouse tendencies.

What makes Jeanne Dielman such a strong and groundbreaking work is obviously its use of long takes and dead time. Chantal Akerman’s masterpiece is a film that I could best describe as a chore to watch, which is so apt as the film is mostly focused on a mother doing tedious and time-consuming tasks around her house. I don’t like the experience of watching this film nearly as much as I do The Turin Horse, as The Turin Horse’s style is so beautiful and its tone is so consistently haunting and hypnotizing. Whereas what I can say Chantal Akerman does better (not that the director’s films had the exact same intentions, and I am aware that this comparison I keep making is somewhat arbitrary) is really reserve itself tonally and stylistically to illustrate the mundanity of Dielmans existence. You do feel really bored and frustrated at parts of this film, and so purposefully so.

I love the way Akerman challenges in a way that creates such deep empathy for the character. Long-takes are like my favourite thing in the world for how it emulates real life and time in all its boredom, tedium, pain, ongoingness, etc, and this film uses long takes so radically and affectively. They place you right there with the character, and very quickly and effectively her boredom, frustrations and tediums become yours. This is one of few films where I cannot see its style, length, decisions, etc being critiqued because any frustrations with its pacing and repetition come from a place of a privileged spectator. The film forces you to understand and endure (to the medium of film’s best abilities) the struggles of being a mother and a provider. There are so many subtle brilliances all throughout the film that contribute to this so greatly, with the framings inclusion of items representing some of Dielman’s many tasks populating the frame, forcefully reminding the viewer of how much she has to do, the way reoccurring framing/blocking/actions reinforce the repetitious nature of her existence as well as develop setting so purposefully (due to screen-time, I come to know the kitchen as Dielmans home).

Another thing I adore about Akerman’s approach with dead-time is how it creates drama out of such small insignificant moments. As most of the film is uneventful with little materiel conflict, it makes these small moments of her slipping up, forgetting to button one of her buttons, etc., so impactful when contrasted with the uneventfulness/stagnant/repetitious/unchanging nature of most of the other time. Oh and I gotta give a shoutout to Delphine Seyrig’s brilliantly reserved performance. You never really know what she is thinking but you feel it so intuitively and its everything the performance needed to be. There is so much to be said about the skill and purpose of Akerman’s direction, and I am left blown away and applauding the execution of this film. Truly groundbreaking stuff, and you really need to know what kind of experience you are supposed to have with the film to really appreciate it, I think. Akerman’s approach is truly brilliant and a landmark of female art-cinema.

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