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In the space of a few years, Jeanne Dielman has become known as one of the most important works of modern cinema. In it the director, Chantal Akerman, while using conventional narrative elements (the life of a housewife closely and minutely observed), introduces a new approach to the relationship between film time and real time; experiments with new uses of space and sound, and further explores the relationship of the camera to the objects and action before it.

The film covers three days in Jeanne's life, devoting roughly an hour to each.

The first sets out her routine, carried out with great care and deliberation. She gets up, prepares her son for school, grinds the coffee beans, washes the dishes, makes the beds, shops, minds her neighbour's baby, bathes, prepares the meals, helps her son with his homework, goes for an evening walk, goes to bed.

To supplement her income, she works as a prostitute, having permanent customers each allocated a particular day of the week. This aspect of her life is treated in the film as simply another ritual in her daily routine.

We see Jeanne talking briefly with other women outside the apartment; her son also insists on conversation. During the first night, he asks her how she met his late father. During the second, he confesses to his own confused feelings about sex clearly disturbing her.

The customer of the second day stays longer than expected, upsetting Jeanne's routine. This is the beginning of a series of disruptions and mental slips, carrying over into the third day, that become more frequent and gradually intensify, greatly affecting Jeanne's stability. She wanders in and out of rooms, anxious and disoriented, her efficiency eroded.

It is not until she is with the third client that the film shows her making love, leading to the final, climactic episode in our long journey to the understanding of Jeanne Dielman.

Chantal Akerman

Born: 1950. Between 1968 and 1973, made six short and medium length films.

Features: Je tu il elle (1974), Jeanne Dielman (1975), News From Home (1977), Meetings of Anna (1978).