Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles

Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles

I don't know why the routine that is depicted on the first day is taken as routine. I watched it and assumed that this rigid human being would adhere to this routine, even though each subsequent day is slightly (or drastically) different. The film succeeds in making it feel like a routine so thoroughly that the changes that come in the next two days are sharply distinct. Those static camera angles and the eerie flickering neon lights that pervade the house at night make the film seem harsh and predestined to some sort of apocalypse, and they reinforce the tight control Jeanne seems to cling to.

Jeanne seems to be in a state of self-denial, constantly moving, working to keep her house in order, prepare and do everything for her son, make sure all is in order for her clients, keep her neighbor's baby, and so on. When she briefly has a moment to herself, she seems ill at ease and unable to act. Her only agency seems to be for others. She seems to be repressing herself utterly. As the film progresses, she slowly but surely unravels, until something happens that could be seen as a defeat of her self-control, and that unleashes all of her pent up... well, self. She lashes out and retakes that control.

That final shot of Jeanne alone in the dark is intriguing on a number of levels. Because nothing else showed a significant jump in time and no intertitle told us of a shift in day, I must assume it's the same, third night. So many questions arise during that long, intense shot. Why did this happen? Where is her son? What are the consequences of her actions? Has she been found out? Her eyes show pain, or so I believe, and for the first time, her stony demeanor is broken, if still shadowed. It hurts to acknowledge who and what we truly are, and having taken back control of herself after briefly losing it, she is forced to confront it, perhaps.

There is a malaise that pervades this film as well, a distinct message of discontent, a clearly feminist film (even if Akerman does not prefer the label). As the film shows Jeanne slowly losing control, only to retake everything in a moment of violence, it could even be a warning.

I'm sure I'm not expressing all of this very well, but suffice it to say that the film is a stark, revealing, and stunning portrait.

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