Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Chantal Akerman's "Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles"
This film is, superficially a woman going about her everyday business for over three hours — and "Last Year at Marienbad" is just a camera panning around an expensive hotel. To say that this is "an exercise in boredom" is to miss the point entirely. If anything this is, like Robert Bresson's later color films, a brilliant example of conveying an entire world through extremely limited means. At the beginning of the film Jeanne is the picture of perfection, which is mirrored in the impeccably furnished and decorated apartment. As the film progresses, we begin to see the cracks in her personality — even if it is something so seemingly common as dropping a spoon, or overcooking potatoes. In the context of the film these are like pebbles breaking the tranquil surface of a pond. When Jeanne knows that no one is watching we see the look of despondency and hopelessness on her face. Eventually she breaks down, and her breakdown is both horrifying and cathartic.