[Movie] Jeanne Dielman (1975)

  • Title: Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
  • Directed By: Chantal Akerman
  • Cast: Delphine Seyrig, Jan Decorte

Wednesdays it’s breaded veal with peas and carrots.

I could have made mashed potatoes, but we’re having that tomorrow.

from the movie

This 201-minute masterpiece is about the three days of the life of a widowed housewife with a son. The first day is a typical day, in which everything – cooking, cleaning, shopping, eating, drinking, hiking, chatting, and even sex work with a client – is a routine. On the second day, something starts to amiss, just a little. On the third day, these small alterations to Jeanne’s routine works bring her to the unanticipated climax.

Everyday life has been a topic of philosophy, arts, sociology, psychology, and culture for a long time. The uneventfulness of every day can be regarded as the main cause of modern psychological stresses. At the same time, the hidden creative power of routine works is praised as well. The film examines the delicate balance of seemingly uneventful everyday life without delivering explicit messages. By portraying daily chores through long static shots, the director, Chantal Akerman, succeeded in showing how private lives can be located in the public realm.

What you see in the film is the obsessive behavior of the protagonist, Jeanne Dielman. Her routine works, which are not much different from others, become ritualistic by her obsession. By doing so, Jeanne might have escaped from her generally unstable life conidtions.

It is amazing to see how the slow-paced mundane chores can attract viewers’ all attention. Moreover, each slight deviation from the normal routine escalates viewers’ anticipation – quite a thriller without suspense.

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