Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) Film Review

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The Masterpiece of Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

In the realm of cinematic achievements, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, directed by the talented Chantal Akerman at the young age of 24, stands as a remarkable masterpiece. This groundbreaking film has left an indelible mark on cinema history, becoming the first film by a female director to top Sight and Sound’s prestigious decennial poll. It is indeed a remarkable feat, considering that only a few films have achieved this honor since the poll’s inception in 1952.

An Intimate Glimpse Into Jeanne’s Life

The plot of Jeanne Dielman is deceptively simple, yet it transcends the boundaries of traditional storytelling. Spanning three days in the life of a widowed housewife, Jeanne (Delphine Seyrig), the film delicately follows her daily routines and her interactions with her teenage son, Sylvain (Jan Decorte), when he is not at school. Reveal more details about the plot without revealing spoilers. This minimalistic approach challenges the very notion of spoilers, as Jeanne’s mundane activities and minimal plot conflict blur the lines between what can be considered a spoiler. The film operates in its own enigmatic realm, a testament to Akerman’s craftsmanship and her unique voice in cinema.

Immersive Realism and Exquisite Craftsmanship

Akerman’s film captivates with its static camera, long takes, and real-time depiction of Jeanne’s daily tasks. Peeling potatoes, cleaning dishes, and folding laundry unfold on the screen without any cuts or melodramatic interventions. Each action is intensified by its grounding in reality, as the audience becomes fully aware of the meticulous processes that Jeanne must undertake. It is within these seemingly ordinary moments that the film finds its power, with silence and subtlety speaking volumes. For example, when Jeanne forcefully throws a polished shoe onto a chair, the sudden discordant noise disrupts the uniformity of the preceding scuffing sounds. These small yet significant details imbue the film with profound narrative potency and underscore the impact of the banal on our own lives.

Delphine Seyrig’s Captivating Performance

Delphine Seyrig’s portrayal of Jeanne Dielman is nothing short of extraordinary. Her performance is integral to the film’s potency, as she fully embodies the character’s intricate nuances and emotional depth. The strained relationship between Jeanne and her aloof son, Sylvain, is particularly poignant. Often, Sylvain’s detachment is palpable as he rarely engages with Jeanne, even during their shared meals. A heart-wrenching conversation showcases this social disconnect, with Sylvain looking away from his mother, avoiding eye contact with both her and the camera. This Bressonian quality beautifully captures their profound isolation within society. While the film spans only three days, it provides intimate access to the challenging life of a woman whose relationships are lacking, exposing the underlying tragedy of her circumstances.

Akerman’s Unique Cinematic Language

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles defies mainstream conventions and communicates in an extraordinary cinematic language. Akerman’s intentional departure from traditional plot structures and her rejection of carefully curated frames and dialogue marks a significant departure from the films that typically dominate best film lists. The film’s influence extends far beyond the mainstream, resonating deeply within underground circles. By drawing attention to the passage of time, Akerman immerses viewers in an experience where every second becomes palpable. As she famously pronounced, “In my films, you are aware of every second passing by.”

An Artistic Triumph Beyond Conventions

Jeanne Dielman is an astounding triumph of experimental filmmaking, transcending the boundaries of mainstream cinema and storytelling. Its impact reaches far beyond the confines of its genre, inviting profound academic and philosophical discussion. While the film’s 202-minute runtime may initially seem daunting, it is an experience worth savoring. Set aside a distraction-free environment and immerse yourself in this cinematic gem. Many may approach it as a box to check off their viewing list, but the film rewards those who revisit, contemplate, and cherish it. Its contribution to the world of “slow cinema” is unparalleled, delivering an emotional punch that would have been unattainable within the confines of conventional narratives. Through Akerman’s singular vision, Jeanne Dielman reveals the inherent power of images and performances to speak for themselves without didacticism or heavy-handed moralizing.


Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles stands as a monumental achievement in cinema, forever etching Chantal Akerman’s name in the annals of filmmaking history. This hypnotic film, with its intimate exploration of Jeanne’s daily routines, captivates audiences with its immersive realism and offers a profound reflection on the human experience. Delphine Seyrig’s exceptional performance adds a layer of emotional depth to the film, while Akerman’s unconventional approach challenges the conventions of mainstream cinema. Jeanne Dielman’s influence extends beyond its time, shaping the dialogue surrounding experimental filmmaking and providing a gateway to philosophical interpretations. To watch Jeanne Dielman is to embark on a transformative journey through the mundane, ultimately encountering the extraordinary.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What makes Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles a unique cinematic experience?

Jeanne Dielman stands apart due to its immersive use of long takes, real-time depiction of daily tasks, and meticulous attention to detail. By grounding the narrative in realism, the film blurs the boundaries between the banal and the extraordinary, creating a mesmerizing viewing experience.

2. How does Delphine Seyrig’s performance contribute to the film’s impact?

Delphine Seyrig’s portrayal of Jeanne Dielman is integral to the film’s power. Her nuanced performance captures Jeanne’s emotional depths, allowing audiences to connect deeply with her character and the challenges she faces in her everyday life.

3. What sets Jeanne Dielman apart from other films in terms of storytelling?

Jeanne Dielman defies conventional storytelling by eschewing plot-driven narratives and focusing on the mundane aspects of life. Chantal Akerman’s unique approach challenges traditional cinematic structures, offering an alternative perspective on the female experience and the passage of time.

4. How has Jeanne Dielman influenced the world of cinema?

Jeanne Dielman’s impact extends beyond its ranking in Sight & Sound’s poll. It has influenced the development of “slow cinema” as a genre, encouraging filmmakers to explore the power of mundane moments and challenge traditional storytelling conventions.

5. Why should viewers invest their time in watching Jeanne Dielman?

While Jeanne Dielman’s runtime may initially seem intimidating, the film rewards viewers with a transformative and thought-provoking experience. It offers a unique perspective on the human condition and invites deep contemplation, leaving a lasting impression on those willing to immerse themselves in its carefully crafted world.