Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)Not much happens, and yet not much is skipped over in this long, exhaustingly slow depiction of a self-effacing widow and her meek teenage son. She lives as a humble servant, always saving up with quiet, unrelenting determination – but for what? Neat and controlled, unable to rest and relax, almost oblivious in her seeming uninterest in the surrounding world. Routine and cleanliness means everything as she is constantly busy tidying up, fixing things, making herself useful, taking care. Not valuing her own life, numbed by circumstances and with a disturbed approach to sexuality. This depressingly dull and empty succession of trivial household chores is possibly the most unspectacular, mundane, and intentionally boring depiction ever of housewifery as prostitution – and vice versa.
There is no distinct story arc and only little dialogue, but after half the movie something finally starts to happen in the hopeless, meaningless, emotionless, expressionless void. Tiny mistakes create small ripples on the surface of existence, a quiet desperation can be felt, the ordinariness slowly begins to deteriorate, and almost imperceptible cracks appear. Leading to the surprising and enigmatic end. No judgment, no condemnations, no outrage – not even an opinion. Just calm, detached observation. Very unusual.
Interesting concept in theory, strangely watchable despite the monotonous repetition and extremely uneventful longueurs. Definitely not for everyone, but I think I’ll keep this inverted epic in my book of deliberately un-sexy existential emptiness.