My feelings exactly.
Chantal Ackerman makes a household her laboratory coalescing "the oldest profession" with "the traditional role" which is this film's provocation. The protagonist is a caregiver - to her customers, her son, her neighbor - conducting herself in an exhausting routine that breaks her down. But it's really the viewer who is breaking down, developing a sense of impending doom partly due to that exhaustion.
Not so much an experiment as an experience. A singular accomplishment, though I doubt I will have any desire to see it again. Nevertheless, the precision is remarkable, the claustrophobia is palpable. Occasionally my mind wandered to other things, but I think that's exactly what Akerman intends.
The first thing you'll notice is how trapped you feel—the cozy wallpaper alone is as nightmarishly stylized as the world of Caligari, while the fixed camera makes every location feel like a box and the material objects of domesticity turn threatening. But most important is the woman inside, whose routine begins to break in subtle, thrilling, frightening ways. One of the great works of radical cinema. 5 stars.
Jeanne Dielman, directed by Belgian director Chantal Akerman, is a very strong "feminist" film. I think this is one of the films that you either love or hate, with no possibility of something in between. It's very repetitive and hypnotic, and that is what might lead some to be extremely bored by it. But that repetition is the charm of it, as it is almost a documentation in real time of a simple housewife. And also that repetition is what allows you to see (not necessarily understand, though) how things go wrong in her life.
The different uses of time to bury, to charge, to breath, to alienate and to express; the accumulation of energy flows; the découpage that leaves us aware of the whole empty apartment all the time, intensifying Jeanne's solitude; the unbalanced frame composition/mise-en-scène (Bonitzer's deframing) which rhymes with the unbalanced disposition of actions and the unbalance between her inner and outer world; etc, etc...
I'm glad I watched it. It was really mesmerizing, but I wouldn't watch it again... for a very long time.
I spent most of this spellbinding movie thinking, My God, this woman gets a lot of shit done.
A film so slow and static that it redefines the terms. And for all that, every moment of the first three hours is necessary in order to comprehend the impact of the last twenty minutes. Without those real-time slices in the life of Jeanne Dielman, the viewer would never fully understand her final actions.
Akerman's static, low camera reminds me strongly of the style of Ozu as it captures the life of a Brussels housewife. We see her cooking, cleaning, shopping and prostituting herself over the course of three days. Bit by bit we see her slowly unravel until the swift and brutal climax. I never would have believed that I could be so transfixed by watching over three hours of monotonous routine. A terrific achievement...
Akerman at her best creates an atmosphere so intimate and comfortable to the viewer it warps our sense of time and invites us into a state of reverie. Silence becomes our companion and the routinary motion of events lead us to the very source of grief and frustration of our complex heroine. 3 hours with Jeanne Dielman go by so quickly one gets to wonder how it managed to end like that.
A masterpiece. The fact that this film is nearly 3 and a half hours long, with no soundtrack, completely static camerawork, little dialogue with almost nothing happening and yet it still completely enthralled me speaks leagues about its greatness. It's probably the best film I've ever seen that I have no desire to sit through again. I will never forget this movie. So absolutely haunting and beautiful I almost cried.