Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles

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

This film speaks to me like I was the intended audience.
As a kid I couldn't walk by homes without imagining I was a giant who could pull the roof off of every house along the way allowing me to peek at how the people organized their home, their furniture, their lives, and their routines. This film, so focused on the details of a woman's daily rituals, is made for me.

When Jeanne goes through her Tuesday routine of preparing soup, beef stew and boiled potatoes, I am glued to the screen. Every detail raises a question: Why does she empty the pot of potatoes into a different pot that contains the colander? Why not put the colander in the sink instead? Why does she leave the pot of stew on her balcony before bringing it back to the stove to heat up? Why is she serving her son that many potatoes? She meticulously puts out a tablecloth, cutlery, napkins (in rings), two glasses and a bottle of beer. But when she clears the table she does not fold the table cloth as meticulously as she would. Does she wash it daily?

And so it goes for the entire film. I am fascinated. I love watching her routine, and I wonder what all those details say about who she is.

Then her son enters the picture and I realize how much anger I have towards mothers everywhere who dote on their sons so much that they grow up expecting women to serve them.
It bothers me that Jeanne gives her son more than three quarters of the potatoes.
It bothers me that he doesn't lift a finger to do anything at all in the house.
Every day he sits at the table waiting to be served.
Every day he reads while he eats until his mother tells him not to read at the table.
She makes the dinner then cleans up while his majesty sits on his ass.
She picks up his clothes and even sets out the clothes for him to wear the next day.
He can't even turn on the radio by himself; he only has to mention the word radio and magically his mother goes and turns it on.

At this point all I want to do is slap Jeanne silly.

Jeanne is the one, like so many before her, and so many still today, who creates or at least promulgates this idea in boys that they ought to be served, or worse, deserve to be served. At least Jeanne doesn't have a daughter, but if she did, that daughter would be a servant-in-training. She would help prepare the meals, help clean up the dishes, help clean the house while the son did nothing.

*** Some spoilers ***

The other men in the film are also serviced by Jeanne, sexually this time. She is a prostitute by day, but I don't think we are to take that literally. I think it just shows that there is very little difference between a woman servicing a man for money and a woman servicing a husband for food and shelter. Or maybe it just shows that women like Jeanne are so used to serving men that they don't draw lines anywhere. It could mean a multitude of things.

Akerman is putting on display the role of women as domesticated servant, mother and sex object. The thing is we are probably meant to sympathize or at least empathize with Jeanne Dielman. For the most part I just wanted to slap her out of her stupor and yell at her to grow a pair. I'm pretty sure that means I don't make a very good feminist.

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