Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles

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

"How could you know? You're not a woman."

The perfect feminist counterweight to Vera Chytilova's manic Daisies. To appropriate a thought from this week's episode of Filmspotting (#791: Tenet | I'm Thinking of Ending Things), if Daisies is concerned with exteriority, then Jeanne Dielman is concerned with interiority — each to their own radical degrees.

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is a sparse, methodical, and hypnotic accomplishment that urges us to look beneath the surface of a widowed mother's lonely existence.

It feels strange to watch, but silence and stasis are things we experience on a daily basis. Akerman resists the urge to blow past the “empty” moments; she resists the urge to be conventionally cinematic. Instead, her camera forces and restricts our gaze on Jeanne's ostensibly peaceful life of domesticity.

I literally gasped when a new camera angle broke the film's cyclical style. Before we even realize what's happened, we know something is amiss. With the flick of a switch — just the opposite, actually — the facade begins to crumble.

For what Akerman is trying to accomplish, this film absolutely needs its challenging runtime. Its pace manages to recalibrate our viewing posture and formal expectations. In other words, Jeanne Dielman wants to lull us into its unconventional style and slow tempo so that even the slightest interruption of its rhythm is a jarring experience.

So then why do its final moments feel hopelessly inevitable?

Nothing we've seen has led us to believe that Jeanne is capable of such a thing. And yet everything we've seen has led us to believe that this was the only way this was going to end.

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