Chantal Akerman’s audacious narrative features and intimate documentaries forever changed the way we experience the rhythms of everyday life on-screen. In her most widely acclaimed masterpiece, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, she captured the quiet anxiety underlying the domestic rituals of a middle-aged widow (Delphine Seyrig) who preoccupies herself with performing her household chores and turning the occasional trick to make ends meet. With its distinctive long takes that steadily accumulate dramatic tension, Akerman’s film immerses viewers in her heroine’s insulated world while also exposing the fragility of its foundations.
In 2009, the late, great auteur sat down with us for a supplemental feature on our edition of Jeanne Dielman, which we released in a Blu-ray upgrade this week. In the below excerpt, she discusses her fascination with ritual, linking it to her Jewish background and to the strict daily routines that brought a sense of peace and security to the women in her family.