Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles

Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles ★★★★½

I'm struggling to find the words to describe this film because I've never seen anything like it. Deeply challenging in a way that is both unsettling and tragic, Jeanne Dielman presents the viewer with a collection of monotonous acts that build so slowly that many viewers are bound to overlook the significance of it. Some may accuse this long, dreary, utterly exhausting work of art to be pretentious or pointless; a trivial exercise in cinematic snobbishness and a waste of time.

However, I was completely transfixed by the masterful filmmaking on display. Chantal Akerman dares the audience to think for themselves. The themes are never directly explained, there is no score present to manipulate peoples' emotions, no explosive breakdown or dramatic epiphany. There is only work, silence, and more work. It is through Jeanne's repetitive cleaning, cooking, and shopping that her anger and sadness is revealed. This is a descent into madness story where you can blink and miss the madness.

Through a few choice lines of dialogue and Delphine Seyrig's subtly evocative expressions, we see that Jeanne is sick of her life, sick of doing the same thing all day every day, but she never confides in anyone, not even herself. She may not even realize just how sick and tired of her life she really is. This is a serious contender for the most realistic film I have ever seen, a character study so life-like and believable that it's genuinely terrifying. This isn't an exaggerated supernatural scenario or a twisted courtroom drama, but simply a slice of life.

Jeanne turns to her routine because she knows nothing else. Perhaps she once did, perhaps somewhere inside her she still does, but above all else she knows that she cannot escape. The relatability of her struggle is hypnotizing. When she dropped a brush onto the floor, something that would normally never stand out as something out of the ordinary, I jumped from shock. Any disruption to the schedule is a moment of panic and the last hour of this film is more tense and anxiety-inducing than most thrillers because we all know that somewhere, somehow, Jeanne will break, because how could she not?

The camera is immaculately and artfully placed and yet never moves. The editing is sharp and precise but not flashy. The transitions are so cleverly blended together that it's difficult to notice their presence. This is a film that I can tell will leave me thinking for a long, long time and I'm glad I finally exposed myself to this fascinating experiment of a film.

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