Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles

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

Chantal Akerman’s seminal work of feminist expression is by all accounts a masterpiece. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles takes a look at what it really means to a woman and tries to uncover the truth of what life is all about.

This experimental marathon covers the life of one woman over a period of three days. Jeanne is a widow and mother to a teenaged son. Her lonely existence is filled with cooking, cleaning, caring for her son and prostituting herself to local men. The film, much like Jeanne’s routine, is intensely focused and ritualized process that turns every minute action of the protagonist’s day into an important moment in this woman’s life.

Truly, this film is an immersive, transcendental experience that leads the viewer into this world that Akerman has created. It’s an almost unbearable experience on first viewing. The monotony and the goliath length are massively intimidating factors in this film. I don’t know how I managed to stay awake and focused for the entire 3 hour and 21 minute runtime, but by the time the credits rolled, I was glad I did.

Akerman’s environment is one of the dullest subject matters of anything I have ever seen, but once I was immersed in to the world of Jeanne Dielman, my entire outlook on the film had changed. Not only was I anticipating the inevitable break in the routine that is a key element of transcendental film, but I was on edge as she went about her routine. Every interaction she has with another human, and every new moment of her routine was exciting. Whether it was her interactions with her son and her clients or even the moment in the kitchen when she dropped a potato, I was always acutely aware of any moment that be significant to the film as a whole.

Of course, when the moment of disparity finally comes about, we see Dielman’s orgasm which in turn leads to a terribly beautiful moment of true stasis. This moment is truly absorbing. More than any other stasis moment in films that I would classify as transcendental, this moment made me really understand the power of Akerman’s film, and gave a real appreciation for Jeanne Dielman.