The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short
The man who had his hair cut short is one of the first Belgian films with an international career. The screenplay of this debut film by André Delvaux, one of the classics of Flemish magic-realist cinema, is based on the novel of the same name by Johan Daisne. The main character, lawyer Govert Miereveld, teaches at a girls' school in a provincial town. He harbours a secret platonic love for his pupil Fran, which plunges him into a downward spiral of mental disorientation.
CINEMATEK recently restored the film as part of the international collaboration 'A Season of Film Classics (2021), coordinated by The Association of European Cinematheques ACE with the financial support of Creative Europe. CINEMATEK previously released the film on exclusive DVDs with interesting extras and documentary material.
Gertjan Willems is a film and media scientist. He teaches at the University of Antwerp and is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Cinema and Media Studies at Ghent University. For CINEMATEK and CINEA he wrote an essay about The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short in which he thoroughly analyses the characters, situates the film within a Belgian and international historical framework and draws your attention to some stunning details. The full essay contains some "spoilers" for the film, so choose for yourself whether you read the text on the CINEA website before or after watching this fascinating film.
Also be sure to watch this short film introduction by Gertjan Willems about André Delvaux and his work, based on the restored version of The man who had his hair cut short.
'Fran' is the first word pronounced in the film, Fran/Eufrezia Veenman' is played by Countess Beata Tyszkiewicz (Beata Maria Helena Tyszkiewicz-Kalenicka).
The Polish actress was born into a Polish noble family on 14 August 1938. In 1955, she made her film debut as a 16-year-old schoolgirl.
From 1958 to 1959, she studied drama at the Drama Academy in Warsaw. Afterwards, she was expelled from school because of her noble descent.
She did not return to film until 1960. She made her breakthrough as an actress with the film Manuscript Found in Zaragoza (1964) by Wojciech Jerzy Has. In the 1960s, she often played noble roles in costume dramas such as The Doll by Wojciech Has and The Ashes by Andrzej Wajda. She worked together with leading directors such as Agnieszka Holland, Krzysztof Zanussi, André Delvaux and Andrzej Wajda. Tyszkiewicz played in more than a hundred films, including the biopic about Édith Piaf, Édith et Marcel (1983) by Claude Lelouch and La Petite apocalypse (1993) by Costa-Gavras.
Like Gertjan Willems says in his essay ,female characters in the film are much less present and occupy subordinate, subservient roles. Fran is the only important female character in the story. Fran is a common thread throughout the film. From the first to the last scene, she personifies not only Govert Miereveld's desire, but also the grey zone between reality and fiction that is so essential to Delvaux's magical realism.
Through the female character, the film plays with the boundary between the outside and inside world. It is up to the viewer to decide what is real and what is not. Fran is not the sex object in the film, but she is Govert's muse, his inspiration, his adoration, his strength and his vulnerability. She is the star for Govert Miereveld from the graduation ceremony with the performance of a romantic song to the unexpected meeting in the hotel years later when she has grown into the diva with a strong impact on Govert's male company. "Le fou, c'est l'autre", Delvaux would say. The distinction between the reality in the head of the main character and reality is irrelevant.
André Delvaux met the Polish actress while making an extensive documentary series on Polish cinema for Belgian television. He was immediately impressed and eventually chose her for the role of Fran/Eufrezia Veenman, much to the delight of Daisne, who was full of praise for her performance.
Apart from the importance of the female character, Gertjan Willems also elaborates on the national and international success of this modernist masterpiece that that can undoubtedly be put on the same level as can be done with the work of Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard en Agnès Varda.