Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Jeanne Dielman, a lonely young widow, lives with her son Sylvain following an immutable order: while the boy is in school, she cares for their apartment, does chores, and receives clients in the afternoon. However, something happens that changes her safe routine.


Sam Adams: That’s very much the feeling of watching Jeanne Dielman, where the repetitive ritual of her daily chores forges a connection with the viewer that’s practically physical, to the extent that you feel a jolt when she drops the shoe that she’s shining, or lets the potatoes boil over. It’s an effect you can really only achieve with a film of that length.

Chantal Akerman: It is physical, but you know, when I started to shoot Jeanne Dielman, at the beginning, I was not aware of what was going to be the film. Everything was written in the script already, but still. After three or four days, when I saw the first dailies, I realized and I said, “My God, the film is going to be three hours and 20 or 40 minutes long, and it’s going to be developing little by little.” For example, when after she sleeps with the guy for the second time, and you feel something happens, even though the length of the shots is more or less the same as before, certainly there is an acceleration inside the viewer, just because, “Oh, she forgot to put the money there, and then suddenly she doesn’t know what to do.” It’s like the end of her life. She doesn’t leave any room for anxiety. It’s like the workaholic, they do the same. When they stop, they die, because then they have to face something inside of them that they don’t want to face. When she has that, that’s the anxiety. I think I am speaking about people. Jeanne Dielman is not special. I can do that with a man, going to work and doing the same thing and being happy because he has the key and he opens the door and then his papers are there and his secretary. Imagine, and then something has changed and he can’t stand it. Because change is dangerous. Change is fear, change is opening the jail. That’s why it is so difficult for yourself to change deeply.

Sam Adams in conversation with Chantal Akerman1


Pieter Van Bogaert: In Jeanne Dielman heb je dat plezier van het gebaar, maar ook die aantrekkingskracht die tegelijk een vorm van verzet is.

Chantal Akerman: En zeer geritualiseerd ook. Men voelt dat het gaat over iemand die zich heeft opgesloten in een soort gevangenis. Het is echt een naoorlogse film. Het is 1975, een moment waarop er veel sprake was van feminisme, maar het gaat ook over een vrouw die zich opsloot door de kampen. Ik heb een filmpje gemaakt waarin ik mijn moeder daarover laat vertellen. Ze vertelt hoe belangrijk het was dat de dingen elke dag hetzelfde waren in de kampen. Als men zich blesseerde of ziek werd, dan ging men naar de gaskamer. Voor mijn moeder moeten de dagen nu nog allemaal hetzelfde zijn. Zij heeft daar echt behoefte aan. Het is complex. Jeanne Dielman is een film na de Shoah. Ik wou dat de mensen fysiek de tijd voelden passeren. De meeste films worden gemaakt om de tijd te vergeten. Men zegt soms dat mijn films intellectueel zijn. Maar ze zijn veel meer fysiek dan intellectueel.

Pieter Van Bogaert in gesprek met Chantal Akerman2


“I don’t know if Jeanne Dielman’s kitchen feels real – for those who have known it, it is astoundingly recognizable. Perhaps it is possible to see Akerman’s films as a venture to portray certain objects correctly and totally. (Brecht: every good poem is also a document.)”

Daniël Robberechts3


“There is an air of study about this film. Not that it wants to be studied because it is so complex and intricate, no, the film welcomes intense reflective attention.”

Dirk Lauwaert4

UPDATED ON 20.04.2020