A lonely widowed housewife does her daily chores, takes care of her apartment where she lives with her teenage son, and turns the occasional trick to make ends meet. However, something happens that changes her safe routine.
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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. Written by
minimalist depiction of modern life in general, not only feminist!
To see during 3 and half hours a middle aged woman silently executing the same household works over and over again is one thing. But to realize that this tired looking single mother is virtually cut out of the rest of society and hardly has an occasion of interacting with her fellow citizen, except routinely visiting teenage son and occasional sexual partners, is completely another thing. Once we notice this obvious fact, every act of repetitive domestic task is suddenly becoming painful to contemplate, strangely too familiar for many of us to dismiss simply as monotonous and insipid. All depends on your sensibility to such an existence. Some might find it to be trivial, pretending every woman is more or less supposed to do so since the Creation. Others might spontaneously feel a deep sympathy for her, a prisoner of one's own occupation unable to cope with a deepening void left by the irreversible passage of time, with a growing sense of non-fulfillment.
Apparently, this cinematographic study of housewife's social condition was first intended to be politically engaging at its release, and rightly so, seeing the socio-cultural contexts of 70s. But categorizing it simply as a pioneer of feminist film making, one would miss more essential values this experimental work may embody. If we feel a lingering melancholy and a vague sorrow toward the secluded existence of the protagonist, her solitary acts of peeling vegetables, boiling water, or mechanically making love with men for living... it is probably not because this is a mere depiction of women's status which one hope to be improved in more egalitarian society. We find here something much more deep seated in the modern men's existence in general, namely the social condition of laborers trapped by a particular mode of occupation, gradually and ineluctably losing any clue of human communication as well as the conviction of one's own destiny, without really knowing why.
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