Where does Jeanne Dielman go at night?
September 29, 2020 5:40 PM   Subscribe

I've fallen down a rabbit hole of rewatching the film "Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles" (such a quarantine movie!). And I'm wondering, has there been any discussion on where Jeanne and Sylvain go at night?

Each night after dinner, Jeanne and Sylvain put their coats on and walk somewhere, to go inside a building. Once Sylvain asks if they can not go, because they ate dinner so late, but Jeanne just says "We're going", and they go. Any ideas on where?

Of course the film doesn't explain, and it's not important, but I'm newly curious if there's been anything written about it. I never thought to ask when I saw it back in college, and now it's just me and a ton of google hits that never quite get at it.

It seems like something that someone might have asked Chantal Akerman (whether or not she'd have answered). It also seems like something that someone Belgian would have the best hypotheses about, having the most accurate intuitive sense of where someone in Brussels at that time would be likely to go with their teenage son at night.

Any ideas, sources, readings? Popular or scholarly work is fine. I unfortunately am only fluent in English, but if you know of something in another language I'm willing to puzzle my way through.
posted by theatro to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I know nothing of this movie, but it might be worth adding this question in the Fanfare thread as well.
posted by quinndexter at 6:49 PM on September 29, 2020

Best answer: I think they're just taking a postprandial walk around the neighborhood, and the place they're seen entering is their own apartment building at the conclusion of their walk.

The first evening that we see them go out Sylvain leaves a bag of rubbish in front of their building (before he picks up the bag and they head downstairs he asks if it's Tuesday, so I suppose Wednesday morning would be collection day). When we see them re-enter the building, the bag is still there on the sidewalk.

I love Chantal Akerman and I love this film -- I found it mesmerizing when I first saw it. If you're interested in reading a scholarly work on Akerman's films, I can recommend Nothing Happens: Chantal Akerman’s Hyperrealist Everyday by Ivone Margulies. It's from the mid-1990s so it misses her later stuff, but it's very good on Jeanne Dielman and gives a good analysis of Akerman's aesthetic.
posted by theory at 10:58 PM on September 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have not seen the film. I was intrigued by your question and looked it up.
This article hints that it is intentionally that the content of the visit is left out.
" les deux premières scènes de prostitution ne sont pas du tout montrées ; de même, on ne sait rien du contenu de la sortie du mardi soir qu’elle fait avec son fils dans les rues de Bruxelles."
Note that in early seventies Brussels it would have been highly unusual to go anywhere with your teenage son on a week night. Very few places to go (theatres?) and I understand not the done thing anyway.
posted by bluedora at 11:00 PM on September 29, 2020

Response by poster: Ohhh, I didn't see that that shot was them coming home--thank you, theory! The Criterion transfer is beautiful, but on my computer I couldn't see detail in the outdoor-night. I'll definitely read the Margulies book; I am in a perfect mood for it.

And thanks too, bluedora, for the quote and the context. This is scratching the itch nicely.

I'll pop in to the Fanfare thread, quinndexter--not sure if anyone still feels like talking about it, but if they do, I'm game!
posted by theatro at 5:11 AM on September 30, 2020

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