Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels (1975) - full transcript

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.

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See you next week, then.

No reading at the table.

Is it good?

I added less water than last week.
Maybe that's why it's better.

You hardly eat.
You don't look well, you know.

Want something else?
Some fruit?

We got a letter
from Aunt Fernanda in Canada.

I'll read it to you.

“Dear Jeanne and Sylvain,

I'm sorry I've taken
so long to write back.

I often think of you and Belgium.

But I've been so busy
with the kids starting back to school,

and suddenly
I realized winter's here.

It's been snowing a lot,
and I hardly get out.

The roads were so bad that the kids
couldn't go to school last Friday,

and I'm at home most of the time,

because without a car,
you get bogged down.

Jack says he'll teach me
to drive next year.

The distances
are simply too huge here.

He says I'm in Canada now
and I should act like the locals.

The women here all drive,
but I'm afraid I'll never learn.

But now all the cars
are completely covered by snow.

The children are fine,
big and strong.

Real Canadians, just like Jack.

I fear Jane may get too tall,
but anyway, she's fine.

I hope you'll come
see them this summer.

We have a large guest room,
and Sylvain can sleep with his cousin.

Maybe we can
introduce you to someone.

Jack says you should remarry,

that a good-looking woman
shouldn't be alone.

George has been dead
six years now.

We know you're very brave
and you say you'd rather stay single

so as not to complain.

But sometimes when I think of you,
tears come to my eyes.

Well, Jack will be home soon
and the table's not set yet,

so I'll say good-bye,
with a hug for you both.

Your loving sister and aunt,

PS: I sent a birthday present
for Jeanne last month by boat.”

I wonder
what that present could be.

Would you like to go to Canada?

“The Enemy,”
by Charles Baudelaire.

“My youth was but
a gloomy storm

With occasional flashes
of dazzling sun

Thunder and rain
have created such havoc

That in my garden
few buds remain

Now I've reached
the autumn of my thoughts

And I have to use...”

The spade.

“And I have to use
the spade and rake

To reclaim a bit
of the flooded land

Where water burrows pits
like open graves.”

Once more.

“The Enemy,”
by Charles Baudelaire.

“My youth was but
a gloomy storm

With occasional flashes
of dazzling suns

Thunder and rain
have created such havoc

That in my garden
few buds remain

Now I've reached
the autumn of my thoughts

And I have to use
the spade and rake

To reclaim a bit
of the flooded land

Where water burrows pits
like open graves.”

You're picking up the accent
more and more.

I know. I can even pronounce
the Rs like Yan,

and no one laughs at me
at school anymore.


but nobody forced you to go
to the Flemish school.

Yes, I know - your friend.

I wonder if you can still
say your Rs like me.

And now, the Bagatelle
for Piano No. 27,

Opus 126 in A Minor,
by Beethoven,

“Für Elise,”
played by Suzanne Duchêne.

Come have a look.

You want it long, don't you?

I'm almost out of yarn.

- This is Tuesday, isn't it?
- Yes.

You're always reading,
just like your father.

I know.
You already told me.

How did you meet my father?

Why do you ask that now?

I just read the word “miracle,”

and Aunt Fernande always said
it was a miracle she met Jack.

Yes, he came in '44
to liberate us.

They tossed chewing gum
and chocolates to us,

and we threw flowers to them.

I met your father
after the Americans had left.

I was living with my aunts,
because my parents were dead.

One Saturday, I went to
the Bois de la Cambre with a girlfriend.

I don't remember the weather.

She knew him. You know who I mean.
I've shown you her picture.

So we began seeing each other.

I was working as a billing clerk
for horrible pay.

Life with my aunts was dull.
I didn't feel like getting married,

but it seemed to be
“the thing to do,” as they say.

My aunts kept saying,
“He's nice. He has money.

He'll make you happy.”

But I still couldn't decide.

But I really wanted
a life of my own, and a child.

Then his business suddenly
hit the rocks, so I married him.

Things like that happened
after the war.

My aunts had changed
their minds.

They said a pretty girl like me
could do better

and find a man
who'd give me a good life.

They said he was ugly and so on,
but I didn't listen.

If he was ugly, did you want
to make love with him?

Ugly or not,
it wasn't all that important.

Besides, “making love,”
as you call it, is merely a detail.

And I had you.
And he wasn't as ugly as all that.

Would you want to remarry?

No. Get used to someone else?

I mean someone you love.

Oh, you know...

Well, if I were a woman,

I could never make love with someone
I wasn't deeply in love with.

How could you know?
You're not a woman.

Lights out?

All right.

Sleep well.

end of the first day

Did you wash your hands?

Couldn't I have
a little more today?

Thank you, ma'am.

How are you, ma'am?

Fine, thanks.
Could you fix these by tomorrow?

My son's wearing his other pair,

but his feet get soaked
when it rains.

They're last year's shoes.

I'll have a look.

And the heels too,
while I'm at it.

All right.
How's tomorrow at 4:00?


- How's your boy doing?
- Just fine.

You're happy with him?
He listens to you?


What would I do without him?

They'll be ready tomorrow at 4:00.

It's been a long time.

Stop by for coffee
this afternoon.

I can't today.
Maybe next week.

All right. See you then.


Here he is.

You weren't eating,
were you?

What are you making for dinner?

Wednesdays it's breaded veal
with peas and carrots.

I had no idea
what to make today.

Myself, I'd be fine
with just bread and butter.

I don't have much appetite
ever since I started smoking.

But the children need meat,
so I went to the butcher's.

There was a long line.

I always think I should go
earlier or later to avoid the line,

but this time, I thought...

“I'll listen to what other women order.
I might get some ideas.”

But I got
even more discouraged.

One ordered ground meat.

I thought,
"Probably for meat loaf,

but I just served that yesterday
with apple sauce.

Then I though:
"No, she 'll make hash.”

But hash again...

When my turn came,
I still hadn't decided.

So I ordered the same thing
as the woman in front of me

and wound up paying 300 francs
for two pounds of veal.

It's a good two days' worth,
and none of us really like veal.

So the kids turn up
their noses once again.

People say veal
has no vitamins.

And you can't eat fish these days -
it can kill you.

If only they didn't come home
for lunch every day,

but my husband says
the food at school isn't good,

and they're small
for their age as it is.

I tell you,
if it were up to just me...

But he 'll be gone
all next week.

I'll miss him, you know?

I'll stay at my mother's,

so they'll have to get used
to eating with the other kids.

It's better that way.

My husband can't object.

Does your son
eat lunch at school?

Yes, he always has.
He's not fussy.

My husband wasn't either.

Oh, mine isn't either.
It's all those kids.

But what can you do, you know?

At least there are ways
these days.

Well, I've gotta go.


Excuse me.

I'd like a ball of yarn this color.

I think I saw some over there.

- This color?
- Yes.

Yes, that's it.

Good-bye, ma'am.


See you next Thursday.

A bag of potatoes, please.

Here you are.

Thank you.


Your hair's a mess.

I let the potatoes cook too long.

No reading at the table.

We'll have to wait a bit.

The meat and vegetables
were on a very low flame.

Just another minute or two.

I could have made mashed potatoes,
but we're having that tomorrow.

You must be hungry.
You had swimming this morning.

I didn't go.
Neither did Yan.


Yan skipped it
just to keep me company.

I said I had a headache,
and we stayed in the nurse's office.

We had to pass
our certification today.

I don't like you doing that.

I should write back
to Aunt Fernande.

The potatoes
should be done now.

Aren't we going to listen
to the radio tonight?


Is something wrong?
The radio, perhaps?

Yes, it could be that singer.

No, I just don't know
how to reply to their invitation.

Can we not go tonight?
We ate so late.

We're going.

Come home early tomorrow if you like,
and bring Yan along for a snack.

I think Yan's in love
with the nurse.

He didn't catch the streetcar.
Said he had things to do.

But when I passed by later,
he hadn't left.

He bought a book
that explains lots of things

about climaxes and orgasms.

He says we should be interested
in women at our age,

but he doesn't want
some young girl.

He says a man's penis
is like a sword.

The deeper you thrust it in,
the better.

But I thought, “A sword hurts.”

He said,
“True, but it's like fire.”

But then where's the pleasure?

There's no point
talking about these things.

He's the one who told me
everything when I was 10.

I said, “What?
Dad does that to Mom?”

I hated Dad for months after that,
and I wanted to die.

When he died, I thought
it was punishment from God.

Now I don't even believe
in God anymore.

Yan also said
it wasn't just to make babies.

So I started having nightmares
so you'd stay with me at night

and Dad wouldn't have a chance
to thrust inside you.

You shouldn't have worried.

It's late.
I'm turning out the light.

All right.


It's late, Sylvain.
Sleep well.

End of the second day

Did you wash your hands?

Your button.


- All sold out?
- Is it empty?

A small loaf, ma'am?

Do you have a bag?

You have a bag?

Give me a new one.

That's 10 francs 50.



What a beautiful little boy!

What's this all about?

Thanks. Good-bye.

Oh, miss?

Yes, ma'am.

Would you happen to have
a button like this?

I've looked,
but I couldn't find any.

- Maybe these?
- No, they're a bit too small.


I know it's hard
to match it perfectly,

because my sister Fernande
sent it from Canada.

She sent it years ago,
but Sylvain's only wearing it now

because it was too large.

When Sylvain was six,

my sister came back
to Belgium for three months.

He slept in our room -
my husband was still alive.

And Fernande slept on the couch
with Jonathan - “Jon” for short.

Jon was five, but he was taller
and stouter than Sylvain.

So if I write her for one,

it's quite possible
that this style no longer exists.

Since people always say Europe
is five years behind America,

I thought I might find one.

It's practically impossible
to find the same thing.

Better just to change
all the buttons.

It makes a garment look new.

Like going to the hairdresser's.

I've never seen buttons like that.

Try in the square.
You might find some there.

Isn't Gisèle here today?

She gets off work at 4:00.

I see. Coffee, please.

Here you are.