Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce 1080 Bruxelles

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

I’ve been anticipating this ever since I learned about it, and I decided to watch a few of Chantal Akerman’s shorter works to get a sense of how she works. I think this was definitely a good choice, because this would have bored me senseless if I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Akerman so far, but this really seemed like the first time she totally achieved what she was going for. I think that might have to do with the runtime of the movie. It’s shot in a very realist style: long takes, mostly from eye level, and with a noticable lack of tracking shots. Our protagonist, Jeanne, spends 90% of her screentime performing relatively mundane tasks in total silence. There were three things about this I noticed very quickly. First, Jeanne performs these tasks efficiently and meticulously, indicating that she’s done them many times before. Second, for most of the movie, all of these tasks are being done thanklessly for her son. Third, and most importantly, I was struck by the way the tasks were done. All of these seemingly mundane tasks have way more steps than I would initially assume, and that makes them strangely fascinating to watch. Looking back on Akerman’s earlier work, I realize now that she’s trying to point out how nothing happens for no reason, and there are reasons for everything. I always learn something new whenever I watch an Akerman movie, and I’m glad this lived up to my expectations.

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