The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short (1965) De Man die zijn haar kort liet knippen
A schoolteacher (Miereveld or "field of ants") is entranced by one of his students (Fran). Not being able to have his love fulfilled he tries to escape it and moves house and job. Working for the justice department he is invited by the coroner to join a post mortem examination which leads to an encounter with his former student and the possibility to no longer escape his love.
Senne Rouffaer ... Govert Miereveld
Beata Tyszkiewicz ... Fran
Hector Camerlynck ... Prof. Mato
Hilde Uitterlinden ... Beps
Annemarie Van Dijk ... Corra
Hilda Van Roose ... Juffrouw Freken
François Beukelaers ... Patiënt
Paul S'Jongers ... Assistent van prof. Mato
Luc Philips ... Wethouder
François Bernard ... Rechter Brantink
Vic Moeremans ... Direkteur
Maurits Goossens ... Schoolfhoofd
The theme of escape is very prevalent throughout all facets of this movie. The off-voice narration creates a sort of detachment that reflects the detachment of the character with reality and even with the feelings inside him. Seldom the characters speak while facing the camera and the music is a wonderful accompaniment to the narrative: fairy-like and enchanting or confusing and detached. As the inner feelings and reflections of the characters are the main subject of this movie, it is strongly narrative driven rather than driven by actions and therefor it might not suit every 21st century viewer. But I strongly urge people to allow themselves to follow the reflections and balance on the stream of consciousness of the characters and see where it takes them. Near the end different elements fall into place although it may be a place that not everyone likes or even understands. Strong visuals, strong music, strong acting, but not suitable for a day when you're on the couch struck by the flu.
THE FILM director André Delvaux was known as "the godfather of the Belgian film industry", having put his small country on the film map after his first feature film, The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short, won international acclaim in 1965. His works often mingled realism and fantasy in a style labelled "magic realism". Though his films tended to find more favour with critics than public, he had great success with such titles as Un soir, un train (One Night . . . a Train, 1968) and Rendez-vous à Bray (Rendezvous in Bray, 1971).
The film director André Delvaux was known as "the godfather of the Belgian film industry", having put his small country on the film map after his first feature film, The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short, won international acclaim in 1965. His works often mingled realism and fantasy in a style labelled "magic realism". Though his films tended to find more favour with critics than public, he had great success with such titles as Un soir, un train (One Night . . . a Train, 1968) and Rendez-vous à Bray (Rendezvous in Bray, 1971).
Before the advent of Delvaux, Belgium had been known as a country that enthusiastically promoted international cinema via several film festivals and had an enviably extensive archive in its Cinemathèque Royale, but could boast no native film industry. Too small a country for a commercial film to make a profit through domestic success alone, and further fragmented by bilingualism, Belgium was once described by the director Billy Wilder as "the most unnecessary country", and most of its creative talent (including the director Jacques Feyder and the writer Georges Simenon) moved to France. Delvaux brought Belgian film to an international audience at a time when there was no financing for film-makers in the country. The film critic Philippe Reynaert said, "Everybody in Belgian cinema owes something to him. He opened the doors."
Delvaux was born in 1926 in Heverlee, near Louvain. While studying German philosophy at the Free University of Brussels he also attended piano classes at Belgium's Royal Conservatory. He initially worked as a language and literature teacher at the university, but a spare-time job playing piano for silent movies at the Belgian Cinemathèque started a love of the cinema and in 1955 he made a short film with his college students, Nous étions treize ("There Were Thirteen of Us").
He was made head of a programme of film education for Belgian teachers and organised a seminar on the language of film at the Free University's department of sociology. In 1960 he made a four-part series about Federico Fellini for Belgian TV, followed by several other director profiles for television. (In England, the director Ken Russell was making his name in a similar way with his television films about composers.) In 1962 he was one of a small group who created INSAS, the film school which would produce most of the country's new generation of film-makers.
Belgian TV and the Belgian Ministry of Culture co-produced Delvaux' first feature film, De Man die zijn haar kort liet knippen (The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short, 1965), adapted from a 1947 novel, L'Homme au crâne rasé, by Johan Daisne, a disciple of the style called magic realism. The film told of a lawyer's secret obsession with a pupil at a school where he teaches. When the couple meet years later the girl has become a famous actress and the lawyer is losing his sanity, his encroaching madness symbolised by his compulsive visits to the barber.
The film made no concessions to commercial cinema, but revealed traits of the director which would permeate his work – the contrast between dreams and reality, beauty and ugliness, conveyed in a pictorial style which paid self-conscious homage to Flemish old masters. It won several international awards, including a British Academy Award, though some critics were baffled by its strangeness.
Central to the film was an autopsy sequence, now famous, which is terrifying even though nothing of the procedure is shown. The instruments seen beforehand and the evocative soundtrack produce the horror. Marion Hänsel, now a distinguished director, said,
It was the first Belgian film I ever saw. I was 16 and never forgot it. It looked nothing like I was used to seeing in westerns, French comedies or Italian neo-realism. It spoke a strange language, but it was mine. It showed a strange city and a strange country but they were mine. The everyday worlds that I knew were shown to me differently. The rhythm as well as the melody of the words were on another level of reality and swept me to "another place".
Delvaux' next film, Un soir, un train, featured two major stars, Yves Montand and Anouk Aimée, in a symbol-laden tale of lost love as Montand (as a Flemish professor living with a French-speaking theatre designer) seeks his sweetheart when she disappears on a train journey on an autumn evening. The director, who also wrote the script, again displayed his sensitive mingling of moods as the film merged past and present, the real and the imaginary.
Delvaux described his interest in the hazy line between truth and fantasy as part of his Belgian heritage. The film historian Cathy Fowler wrote,
From Surrealists such as Paul Delvaux and René Magritte, and from the magic realist novelist Johan Daisne, he is said to take a preoccupation with the blurred border between reality and imagination. He also shares with Flemish painters such as Bosch and Brueghel an obsession with beauty linked to death and decay.
Rendez-vous à Bray, his third film, was a French-Belgian co-production and won the Prix Louis Delluc. In Belle (1973), Danièle Delorme played a mysterious woman encountered in the woods by a professor (Jean-Luc Bideau) who harbours an incestuous affection for his daughter. There were complaints that in this instance it really was impossible to discern the real from the fantasy, or to be sure whether the woman actually existed. Delvaux responded enigmatically, stating, "The imaginary can introduce things that haven't yet taken place but will happen in reality later on."
Delvaux, who wrote most of his film scripts himself, fashioned another woman of mystery for Benvenuta (1983), in which Fanny Ardant was a reclusive authoress whose 20-year-old novel is to be filmed. A screenwriter visits her to find out how much of her novel was autobiographical, prompting shifting moods of time and place, reality and fiction. Delvaux' other films included a documentary, To Woody Allen from Europe with Love (1980), in which Delvaux also appeared, chatting to Allen, and Babel opéra (1985), featuring extracts from Mozart's Don Giovanni.
His last film, L'Oeuvre au noir (The Abyss, 1988), was in competition for the Palme d'Or in Cannes. It was the director's most expensive movie and his first period film, telling of a 16th-century Flanders physician who wanders Europe to escape the Inquisition, who seek him for his allegedly devilish practices and his bisexuality. Despite a fine central performance by Gian Maria Volonté, the film was considered plodding and episodic.
In 1992 Delvaux took an acting role in Marion Hänsel's film about an unborn child talking to its mother, Sur la terre comme au ciel (In Heaven as on Earth).
In 1991, he was awarded the Plateau Life Achievement Award (named after Joseph Plateau, a pioneer of cinema technology) at the International Film Festival in Ghent.
André Delvaux suffered a fatal heart attack in Valencia just hours after giving a speech about cinema at the World Arts Meeting.
André Delvaux often spoken passionately and poignantly of the unique bicultural experience that had infused early Belgian cinema (an industry that also fostered other pioneering bicultural filmmakers such as social realist - and undoubted spiritual ancestor to the cinema of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne - Paul Meyer) that had become increasingly regionalized towards the end of the twentieth century, and to this day continues to wear away the remaining traces of a truly indigenous cinema. One side of the country's complex native identity is the infusion of the centuries old, rich history of Flanders art and literature that, curiously, had not been able to translate into an equally distinctive movement within the evolution of Flemish cinema and remains a largely marginalized film industry, even within its own borders. Another side of this culturally erosive regionalization is the increasing international prominence of regional French language films from Wallonia and Brussels that have benefited in part from cooperative financing and support from other Francophone countries (most notably, in terms of wider distribution) in the absence of national funding - as represented by such renowned filmmakers as Chantal Akerman, the Dardenne brothers, and Jaco van Dormael - that, to a certain extent, have become a kind of de facto representative, collective face of Belgian national cinema to international audiences. But before domestic films would evolve into this divisive notion of dominant and marginalized regional cinemas, Delvaux worked integrally and organically from within both Flemish and Francophone cultures under the creative inspiration of a cross-pollinated, overarching national cinema that would accurately reflect the true essence of a bicultural Belgian identity.
This theme of biculturalism and complex identity would continue to resurface throughout Delvaux's career, beginning with his elegant and quietly devastating first film, The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short, based on Flemish author Johan Daisne's vaguely Lolita-esque, stream of consciousness, magical realist novel on a fastidious, middle-aged schoolteacher who harbors a secret obsession for one of his students: a beautiful, aspiring actress named Fran (Beata Tyszkiewicz). Although told from the sole perspective of the hypersensitive, obsessed teacher, Gottfried "Govert" Miereveld's (Senne Rouffaer) alienated - and increasingly alien - point of view, Delvaux illustrates this intrinsic complexity of identity through the film's radical narrative and tonal shifts as Miereveld's emotional and psychological torment over his inability to reveal his true feelings on the day of Fran's graduation is structurally reflected through a series of elliptical, seemingly decontextualized fractures in narrative that occur throughout (and grows increasingly more frequent towards the end of) the film. Using an extended tracking shot of Miereveld walking home to a different, more modest house, Delvaux reinforces the depth (if not shock) of the unremarkable hero's existential transformation after he undertakes a mid-career change following Fran's departure from his life. Now working as a law clerk after a brief, but unsuccessful career as a trial lawyer, Miereveld accompanies the medical examiner, Professor Mato (Hector Camerlynck) and his assistant Dr. Verbrugge (Paul S'Jongers) as a reluctant state witness for an autopsy and possible positive identification of a body that has washed up in a remote village, a traumatic experience that profoundly shakes Miereveld's consciousness and leads to a fateful encounter with the elusive object of his obsession.
In this respect, Miereveld's self-reinvention throughout the film not only illustrates the trauma of repression, as an overwhelming sense of rejection and failure propel him to a state of fugue, but more importantly, also reflects Delvaux's recurring preoccupation with the theme of complex identity as his existence devolves into a series of (real or imagined) role-playing rituals that, nevertheless, reveal his intrinsic character. Despite the imbalancing fragmentation of the narrative, Delvaux's subtle assimilation of recursive patterns that weave throughout the seemingly disconnected episodes in Miereveld's life reflect an intrinsic cohesiveness within the singularity of Miereveld's perspective and provide insight into the (a)logical structure of his seemingly fractured and aimless life: the image of a scalp vibromassage that caps off a haircut at the barbershop at the beginning of the film is referenced during a procedural conversation into the specialized mechanism that drives a hand-operated cranial saw; the eerie placement of a mask on a covered table in the school storage room is visually replicated in the (alluded) position of the exhumed cadaver; the ceremonial presentation of a figurine in the shape of a gestured hand to a departing teacher is evoked in the disarticulation of the cadaver during the autopsy (and in the enumeration of physical characteristics that would aid in the identification of a missing bank manager) as well as serve as a tangible link to Fran and their shared past; a hotel staircase that subsequently serves as a background for a newsreel interview. This theme of abstractly threaded logic, psychological manifestation, and fractured cohesiveness inevitably shapes the indelible, otherworldly images of Delvaux's minimalist and remarkably groundbreaking film - an idiosyncratic syntax that anticipates the allusive, disjunctive cinema of Apichatpong Weerasethakul (who similarly uses abrupt narrative shifts and extended traveling sequences as transitional devices in such films as Blissfully Yours and Tropical Malady) and reflexive, bifurcated cinema of Hong Sang-soo - even as it presents a metaphoric - and hauntingly prescient - cautionary tale on isolation and the rupture of identity.