- In collaboration with KASKcinema
- With an introduction by Bram Van Beek
On 1 December 2022, Sabzian pays tribute to André Delvaux, who died unexpectedly 20 years ago. Delvaux, who according to Luc Dardenne was “the greatest and perhaps the last Belgian filmmaker”, is best known to the general public for the Belgian and international film classic De man die zijn haar kort liet knippen (1966). As part of of Seuls, series of film programs dedicated to singular moments in the history of Belgian cinema, Sabzian is organizing together with KASKcinema the first screening of the restoration of André Delvaux’s second feature Un soir, un train, which like De man die zijn haar kort liet knippen, is based on a novel by Flemish author André Daisne. Delvaux’s adaptation remains true not only to the original storyline but also to Daisne’s magical-realist style, which he cinematographically transposes to the screen. However, in Delvaux’s film, the story unfolds against the backdrop of the linguistic conflict in Belgium during the 1960s, which adds a political dimension that is absent in the novel. Matthias, a bilingual linguistics professor who teaches at a Flemish university, falls asleep on the train after an argument with his girlfriend. When he wakes up, he finds himself in a strange, dreamlike world where people speak and behave in an uncanny way. Through the character of Matthias, Un soir, un train explores the communicability of meaning and the in-betweenness inherent to Belgian identity.
André Delvaux is counted among the most important filmmakers in the history of Belgian cinema. Although he started making films relatively late and without a formal education, Delvaux managed to create a rich oeuvre that paved the way for a whole generation of Belgian filmmakers. Admired by filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker and Alain Resnais, his films put Belgian cinema on the map internationally. Aside from his work as a fiction and documentary filmmaker, Delvaux was actively involved in film education. In 1962, he founded the theatre and film school INSAS in Brussels together with Raymond Ravar, where he trained notable Belgian filmmakers such as Boris Lehman, Michel Khleifi, Jean-Jacques Andrien and Jaco Van Dormael among others.
Seuls. Singular Moments in Belgian Film History is a series of film programs accompanied by the publication of unique texts by Belgian filmmakers and writers on Sabzian’s website. It is often said that cinephiles don’t know or are rarely appreciative of their own national cinema. Film critic Adrian Martin “observe[s] a very intriguing dimension of cinephile thought: namely, the usually feisty way it negotiates a fraught relation with the cinephile’s own national cinema. Indeed, I sometimes think I can spot a cinephile by the intensity of their hatred for their national cinema.” With this series of film evenings, Sabzian aims to chart the wayward landscape of Belgian cinema with images, sounds and words, by means of an affectionate countermovement.
Mathias (Yves Montand) is a selfish professional who lives in Leuven with his wife Anne, who is more sensitive by nature. He rarely questions their relationship, which is clearly cracked. One evening, during a train journey, Anne mysteriously disappears. Mathias goes looking for her and ends up in a strange region where an unintelligible language is spoken and he has to come to terms with himself.
“Want de literator is niets menselijks vreemd en de film, als de meest realistische, de meest verwarrende magisch-realistische kunst, heeft een werkelijkheid van de tweede graad geschapen waarover de literator zal schrijven als uit een reeds een eerste maal gepuurde levenssubstantie: ze is leven en kunst en daardoor natuur- en cultuurstof voor de schrijver.”
Paul Delvaux’ paintings are often set in desolate train stations where mysterious women linger. They seem to be waiting, but whether it’s for an encounter or a farewell remains unknown. In this intermediate moment, it seems as if time itself has been derailed. The Belgian director André Delvaux (no, not family) made a film that seems inspired by those paintings. In the film, the train is a metaphor of life. People pass their time collectively as passengers, forcibly moving through time together. Trains create the conditions for a cinematic spectatorship: like the film spectator you’re sitting passively, moved by the spectacle behind the window. And just like the characters in Un soir, un train are unable to gain control over their lives, the cinema-traveller is unable to climb through the window and take part in that other reality.
Nina de Vroome
« « Mathias aime la terre ferme et tout ce qui est solide, net, précis. C’est là justement que la mort l’attend. La terre ferme n’est qu’un marécage sans issue. De l’autre côté, un langage qui n’a plus cours. Et dans l’évidence du face à face avec la mort, soudain, Anne perdue pour toujours ». Jean Collet a bien montré comment l’assurance de Mathias le rend téméraire et finalement victime de ces machinations impalpables qu’un Cocteau en revanche avait si fortement mises en relief :
Accidents du mystère et fautes de calcul
Célestes, j’ai profité d’eux, je l’avoue.
Toute ma poésie est là : je décalque
L’invisible (invisible à vous).
J’ai dit : Inutile de crier « haut les mains »
Au crime déguisé en costume inhumain ;
J’ai donné le contour à des charmes informes
Des ruses de la mort la trahison m’informe…
Ce dernier vers semble avoir été écrit pour annoncer Un soir, un train. Meme s’il n’y a pas ici trahison mais simples échappées sur l’invisible, rumeur de ce qui se trame, Mathias aurait dû le percevoir. Il faudra ce rêve pour qu’il le perçoive avec son inconscient, plus sensible et plus pénétrant que son intelligence. »
Henri Agel, Joseph Marty2