Small and geometric kitchen, what doesn’t belong? The woman. Her shape obscures the room, it is too neatly arranged and so small already. Silence works. She answers the door for an older man. They walk to a room, cut to the lights off, fuck the lights back on. He pays her on his way out and says he’ll see her next week. She turns the lights off. Her money is not very well hidden, but her kitchen seems bigger now. Lights on. Lights off. Lights on. A transaction does not seem to have occurred – or rather, it has occurred, so often on a daily basis, that it has simply become yet another routine chore. She spends more time in the kitchen than the man. Her bathroom does not appear properly hers aside from sterile order as she bathes in the tub. It does not match in patterns or design, but her naked squatting body is the same shade as the peach wall tops. She is not shamed nor is she proud nor does she care. The scenes, the shots, are long until each action is fully completed – cutoffs exist not. Is this film or a biology experiment? I am the observer and she is but my subject. She lives in a doll house of stereotypical womanly colors and flowers, dated, and her clothes are plain as are her tasks. She takes orders from her subconscious headmistress, cooking, cleaning, lights on, lights off. Those blue lights outside the dining room, like police, or pool water rippling in reflections. She never notices these lights. Only those inside her apartment. Lights on. Lights off. Instead she sets her dining room table, only one end of it, tablecloth and napkins and alcohol and cutlery and cups. Her stove is barely big enough to support the pots. A young man comes home, her son? Yes. No more customers for the night. If only he had the same day as his mother did. He seems to be the only dinner guest – remember, the old man will not return until next week. The young man brings a book to the table and they eat like mechanical toys. She is sensual in the way she rocks back and forth to catch the spoon in her mouth after dipping it, one hand placed steadily on her dish. They eat their next course with the same fervor of the soup, only it seems more dire, particularly when she knits her eyebrows to get her forkful in, for just a split second. She speaks, he sits. They are not a mother and son, not two people, just a scene. He interrupts her routine by gulping down his drink, then setting his schoolbooks out to study.
Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (dir. Chantal Akerman, 1975)