2022 has been a great year for Belgian cinema.
The Cannes Film Festival highlighted the work of three generations (Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Charlotte Vandermeersch and Félix Van Groeningen, Lukas Dhont and Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah) and the year ended with the consecration of Chantal Akerman by the magazine Sight & Sound. On 2 December, Sight & Sound published its list of the 100 best films in the history of cinema, and more than 1,600 critics and film specialists named Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, as the greatest film of all time.
The Royal Belgian Film Archive (CINEMATEK), the guardian of Belgian cinema, and the Fondation Chantal Akerman welcomed this news with immense joy and pride. Both institutions restore and preserve Chantal Akerman’s work, support her legacy, promote her film and non-film archives and are dedicated to its dissemination.
Chantal and her amazing films, particularly this work, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles has been an important film for me and I am happy that it has been recognized as the brilliant film that it is.Gus Van Sant
Chantal Akerman, who wished to see her work preserved and perpetuated, began the restoration of her films at CINEMATEK, an institution with which she has always had a privileged relationship. In 2014 she supervised the restoration of Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. The consecration of Sight & Sound is an indispensable recognition for her work, and in the background, for the work of safeguarding and valorization of film preservation – the digitization allowing the film to be accessible worldwide –, in her presence and since her departure.
There are only so little films that change the way you think about – and look at – the people who have been in your life since birth. When I first discovered Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles as a young film student it is needless to say I had never seen any film like it. Although reality had presented me these images, I had never encountered them on a screen. The times my mother would take us to a cinema we would see visuals of royals, romance or explosions. Never the meatloaf my grandmother used to make for us after school. I remember looking at her as a child. Her silhouette against the kitchen window as the clock on the church of the village rang. I remember seeing that image over and over, slightly different every time, but the hands of that clock always indicating the same hour. I had never thought of her as someone who was assigned this role, this space, this window. And this is something Chantal Akerman has given me as a human being and artist. The possibility of filming what you see, not what society wants us to see. She has invited me to look longer, further, and with more profoundness to those closest around me. She unlocked the layers, systems, and invisible walls I didn’t notice. By doing so her work has the incredible force of revealing the things hidden in plain sight.Lukas Dhont
Made when she was only 25 years old and produced by an essentially female team in key positions, the visionary Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, which shows us what directors generally choose to omit (the daily life of a housewife, portrayed here by Delphine Seyrig, the star of the era), has been shining since its presentation at Cannes in 1975. Creating both passions and rejections, it has deeply marked the history of cinema.
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles was in 1975 and is still today a magnificent, unique and unclassifiable film. It showed that time, the very material of cinema, could be the time of the daily life of a human being and it showed that this human being could be a woman. Two simple and major discoveries that inaugurated a new era of cinema.Luc Dardenne
In the hearts of many film lovers, and in our own, the film was certainly at the top of all possible lists. The structural change in the voters of the Sight & Sound list (twice as many as ten years ago and a more diverse selection) makes Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, a choice more in tune with the world, its changes and concerns.
“Jeanne Dielman” is the most powerful cinematic experience I have ever had. It is a masterpiece of storytelling and direction that gives meaning to every detail and has faith in the viewer’s intelligence. With “nothing”, Chantal Akerman tells us “everything”.Laura Wandel
A major influence on filmmakers and artists of all generations, from international filmmakers Gus Van Sant, Todd Haynes, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Céline Sciamma or Greta Gerwig, to the great Belgian figures of Laura Wandel, Lukas Dhont, Caroline Strubbe, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles will continue to inspire the creators of tomorrow.
Sylviane Akerman, President of the Fondation Chantal Akerman
Tomas Leyers, Curator of the Royal Belgian Film Archive (CINEMATEK)