Mar 19, 2015
One important fact about World War II that most contemporary liberalized Europeans seem to have amnesia about and what world Jewry, which does not hypocritically promote multiculturalism for the Occident while at the same time promoting Zionist (aka Jewish racial nationalism) for no reason, has hardly forgotten about is that Uncle Adolf considered all Western European people to be ‘Aryan’ and planned to incorporate all of their nations, including nations as seemingly different as Iceland and Bohemia, into Germany in what would have been a pan-Germanic empire called ‘Greater Germanic Reich of the German Nation.’ Additionally, a much larger number of people from these countries than most contemporary Europeans would like to admit supported the Third Reich, as they saw it as their only hope against the spread of godless red bolshevism from the East. Of course, the Allies ultimately won the war and the rest of Europe ironically decided to use Germany as a scapegoat for their own shameful sins and/or cowardice, with many people in countries like the Netherlands and Belgium pretending to have been victims of Nazism and/or members of the resistance after the war, even though only a handful of largely disorganized people were involved with the latter. Of course, aside from a handful of cinematic works of mainly Dutch origin like Adriaan Ditvoorst’s debut feature Paranoia (1967), Paul Verhoeven’s Soldaat van Oranje (1977) aka Soldier of Orange and to a lesser extent Fons Rademakers’ Harry Mulisch adaptation De aanslag (1986) aka The Assault, very few European films have been made depicting the precarious circumstances and strange alliances that many people of Western Europe found themselves making during WWII. Not surprisingly, the Germanic Dutch-speaking Flemish part of Belgium was going to be incorporated into Hitler’s thousand-year Aryan empire, though no contemporary Belgian film would ever reveal this. Ironically, it was a French-speaking Walloon fellow, Waffen-SS Standartenführer Léon Degrelle, who not only becomes the most (in)famous Belgian National Socialist, but also one of the most popular and well known figures of the post-WWII European fascist movement.
Luckily, in the Belgian-French coproduction Woman in a Twilight Garden (1979) aka Een vrouw tussen hond en wolf aka Woman Between Wolf and Dog aka Femme entre chien et loup directed by Belgian maestro André Delvaux (Un Soir, un Train aka One Night... a Train, Rendez-vous à Bray), the viewer thankfully gets a refreshing ‘no bullshit’ look at Belgium during the Second World War as seen mostly from the perspective of an archetypically Aryan-looking housewife who falls for a somewhat swarthy French-speaking Walloon communist ‘resistance fighter’ after her fascist blond beast husband leaves home and goes to lead a Waffen-SS unit on the Eastern Front. Delvaux’s only Dutch-language film aside from his masterful debut feature De man die zijn haar kort liet knippen (1965) aka The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short, the film not only depicts the curious position of Dutch-speaking Flanders before, during, and after WWII in a cinematic tale that spans over a 15 year period that begins in 1940 and concludes in 1955, but also the schizophrenic cultural divide between the Flemish and the Walloons as allegorically personified in the Nazi husband and Marxist resistance fighter. Directed by a proudly apolitical filmmaker who may have been the first Belgian ‘modernist’ filmmaker but was certainly no leftist ideologue or culture-distorter as a mensch that subscribed to the Flemish artistic tradition of magic realism, Woman in a Twilight Garden thankfully does not glorify the resistance nor condemn the collaborators, but instead depicts the rarely good, sometimes bad, and ultimately fairly ugly of the Second World War, which turned neighbors into enemies, criminals into heroes, and respected citizens into much maligned murderers. Indeed, unlike virtually all Hollywood WWII films, Woman in a Twilight Garden—a work based on the 1977 Ivo Michiels novel of the same name—demonstrates that the Second World War only had a negative effect on Belgium, even if those nefarious Nazi demons were defeated. Featuring famous Dutch actor Rutger Hauer in an against-type performance that is completely contra to his legendary character in Soldier of Orange in a fragmented role as a Nazi diehard who disappears for about an hour or so, the film may be the most accessible work of Delvaux’s singular filmmaking career, but it is also one of the most subversive European WWII flicks ever made, as the kind of work that has the power to make an entire nation feel hopelessly embarrassed and ashamed.
Despite the fact that they do not seem to really love one another, not to mention the fact they are never depicted fucking, Flemish nationalist Adriaan (Rutger Hauer) and equally blonde and Aryan-looking Lieve (Marie-Christine Barrault) decide to get married during the beginning of the Second World War at a time where Belgium is still neutral and England and France are at war with Germany. Adriaan is a local Flemish fascist leader in Antwerp who plays piano for his comrades during rallies and, to the slight chagrin of his seemingly sexually repressed wifey, makes impassioned speeches like, “Beautiful, but sad. That was our motto. But we didn’t like the South…We’re a northern people. Our poets know it. We should listen to them and choose our friends carefully. The South is our natural enemy. Our historical enemy. And if a voice calls me, I won’t hesitate for a second for it’s the voice of my conscience…the voice of history. We are only worth what we are prepared to sacrifice. And what do the lives of the few matter in the eternal scheme of things? If I go, I go for my country. For you. My life is your life.” Rather curiously, Adriaan has nowhere near as much passion for his wife as he does for fascism and the two do not even seem interested in having children, as they never mention the subject. When Germany invades Western Europe in August 1940 and subsequently occupies the Lowland countries, including Belgium, it does not take Adriaan long to realize that he has to go to Germany and join up with the Waffen-SS so that he can play his part in annihilating the red menace. Needless to say, Lieve is not happy with her hubby’s decision, but he reassures her by stating, “It won’t be for long. It’s a little war. It’s already won” and then walks out the door while his wife is still talking to him. When Adriaan walks out the door, Lieve grasps around her naughty bits as if her womanhood has been compromised. Little does Lieve realize that she will soon fall in love with a card-carrying commie enemy who is in the Belgian resistance.
Almost as soon as her husband lives for Deutschland, Lieve is shunned by almost everyone in Antwerp except for the local butcher, who is a Nazi supporter and provides the young wife with free fresh cuts of meat and much needed emotional support. The locals also seem to be jealous of the fact that Lieve has a nice large bourgeois home with an extravagant garden and greenhouse. When Lieve sees a black cat roaming outside while she is tending the garden, she rightly sees it as a bad omen as reflected in a petrified look that she has on her face. At first, Adriaan mails Lieve money but fails to include letters, but when he actually does send a letter, he seems more interested in his piano than his wife as expressed in his words, “I miss you very much…I also miss my piano. I have no time for music here.” At one point, Adriaan sends an SS man (played by German actor Mathieu Carrière) to help Lieve, but she seems to resent him, especially after he remarks regarding her emotionally negligent husband that, “We all think a lot of him. He sacrifices everything for us, for the group.” Indeed, Lieve seems to be trapped in a sort of internal pandemonium as a socially scorned woman whose husband is not around to protect her, or at least until a young fugitive commie resistance fighter named François (Roger Van Hool) literally sweeps her off her feet and forces her to let him hide in her home. While Lieve initially wants François out of her home ASAP, she ultimately decides to seek shelter in the charming commie’s arms after her own family ends up treating her like a piece of trash. Indeed, shortly after leaving a nice dinner with her family, Lieve turns around and goes back after realizing she has left her bag, only to walk in on her loved ones, including the family dog, sinking their teeth in large servings of beef that they had hid from her. Despite being the wife of a Nazi, Lieve receives total romantic devotion from self-described ‘socialist’ François, who only ever leaves her humble abode to engage in resistance actions, which include gun fights. Ultimately, it is Lieve’s relationship with François that will spare her from persecution after the war concludes.
When the war finally ends, members of the resistance walk through the streets like heroes and exact their revenge on Nazi collaborators, including the Butcher, who pulls a Goebbels and kills his family and himself before his enemies can get to him. Notably, before killing himself and his family, the Butcher asked Lieve if she knew anyone that could take care of his kids if something were to happen to him as a result of his pro-Nazi sympathies, but she completely ignored his plea for help even though he had helped her throughout the war. Suddenly after the war concludes, people who had no direct involvement in the resistance pretend to be heroes and use the German defeat as an opportunity to act sadistically against their neighbors, especially pretty women, who take great pride in shaving the heads of women that had affairs with German men. These pseudo-resistance fighters also take the opportunity to destroy the personal belongings of neighbors whose wealth they are jealous of, including smashing windows and throwing expensive pianos out of four-storey buildings. In fact, a rabid brigade of seething wenches show up at Lieve’s home and attempt to attack her, but François sets them straight and informs them of the crucial help she provided to the resistance. Meanwhile, it is learned that Adriaan is still alive and Lieve coerces François into using his political influence to make sure her husband is not executed via firing squad. Indeed, despite the fact that she clearly loves François more than Adriaan and they seem way more sexually compatible, she decides to stay with her husband, who is released from prison in a fairly physically unscathed state, though he is far from mentally sound as one of the few survivors of a thoroughly decimated army brigade, as well as a man who is now regarded by his neighbors as a traitor, war criminal, and sinister Semite-slaughterer.
To his credit, Adriaan proves he is no opportunist by remaining an unrepentant National Socialist, but that also means that he refuses to move forward with the future and live his life. Indeed, while Lieve runs the family furniture store, Adriaan stews in his study, which is adorned with fascist and Christian paraphernalia, and writes his ‘magnum opus,’ which he calls, “Notes, memories, my defense.” When his repugnantly effete Catholic priest cousin attempts to get him to repent, Adriaan rubs the holy man's hypocrisy in his face by stating, “Did you know which side you were on? Your songs envoke the great Flemish people…And yet you surrendered. Belgium shall be Latin or nothing at all.” Adriaan even hates his customers, describing them as “parasites” after his wife tells him that most of their buyers are lawyers, architects, and various other sorts of professionals. Although Adriaan has very little interest in his wife and rather resents the fact that she maintains a strong friendship with her ex-beau François, who is now a powerful politician, he manages to get her pregnant and the two have a little blond Aryan boy. While Lieve showers their son with love even when he is bad, Adriaan finds it hard to even interact with his son in a fatherly way. Meanwhile, Adriaan forces Lieve to listen to his writings but she does not seem particularly impressed when he gives the following speech: “Looking back, and deep inside myself, I still don’t understand what it is I am guilty of. They say I betrayed my nation. But what do those accusations mean? I say I served my people. They say I collaborated with the enemy. But how can a nation which has armed itself to defend the culture of the western world, be an enemy nation? They say that we were thinking of our own interests…But how is that possible when you believe in a new world, a new society? When you have sacrificed everything for that. When you have given up your career, your family…your own life.” Of course, being a woman, Lieve does not understand the concept of true self-sacrifice and completely resents the fact that her hubby devoted himself more to his country and comrades than her. Ultimately, Adriaan cannot live with the fact that his struggle amounted to nothing, mumbling to himself, “All in vain. All those fallen comrades… in vain.” Eventually, Lieve goes crazy after listening to one of Adriaan’s speeches, goes on a bitch-fest about Dachau and the Jews, and smashes every single Jesus statue in his room and even goes to hit him, but stops when she realizes how weak and pathetic he looks. In the end, Lieve leaves her husband for good while he is chopping wood. The film closes with the inter-title: “Fifteen years in the life of Lieve.”
Notably, auteur André Delvaux once described his work Woman in a Twilight Garden as an “intimist” film, adding: “We have set the story... in the stirring years of Flanders so that the echo of uproar and fury gives more power to its intimacy and its terrible fragility. We want to bear testimony to this piece of history that has never been dwelt on by the Belgian Cinema. A sensitive testimony, above all, for it is more a question of subtle differences of memory than of History. The sounds and colors of our memory: a Flemish house and garden but also Antwerp during the war, its silences and its noises, its voices and its music, perceived from this look-out station in a garden by night.” Judging from his film alone, it seems that Delvaux felt that the war had brought out the worst in everyone, especially the everyday lemming citizen, who put up no real resistance when the Nazis took over yet pathetically pretended to be heroes when the war ended and the National Socialists were regulated to the losing side of world history. Indeed, in the film, the citizens of Antwerp run through the streets and hatefully attack and assault both real and imagined collaborators in a most self-righteous manner as if to convince themselves they are not the true blue cowards that they actually are, as the sort of opportunistic two-faced individuals who would have most certainly treated the members of the resistance just as harshly had Germany won the war instead. Unquestionably, the genius of Woman in a Twilight Garden is that, despite being an aesthetically resplendent and visually solacing work that is really quite not like any other WWII flick, it is actually a subtly misanthropic film that only displays sheer and utter contempt for the majority of humanity and does not really feature a single likeable character, thus making it true to real-life. Indeed, even the somewhat homely female protagonist is hard to empathize with, but that is also what makes her more true to life as a woman that encompasses many of the flaws of Western European womanhood. Of course, as someone who is easily the most masculine and stoic character at the beginning of the film yet later degenerates into an irreparably broken man as a result of the German defeat, forlorn ex-Waffen-SS man Adriaan acts as a sort of allegorical symbol for the death of masculinity in Europe, especially when one considers that he is incapable of taking care of his son and no longer has the power to instil masculine values in future generations of Flemish men like he once did before the war when he was a fascist leader. Indeed, ultimately Adriaan is the most tragic character of the film as a mensch who is just as much of casualty of the Second World War as his comrades that had fallen on the Eastern Front. Somewhat curiously, resistance fighter François, who is a nihilist at heart, becomes a sort of sneering political bureaucrat in the end who ironically resents the new phony cosmopolitan Belgium that he helped to create, thus symbolizing that Belgium's post-war leadership was a sad and pathetic joke. Although I doubt it was intentional on Delvaux’s part, the only thing I could think about after watching Woman in a Twilight Garden is if Flanders and, in turn, all of Western Europe, might have been better off if Germany had won the war. Naturally, considering the Flemish, like most Europeans, are committing population suicide and have long been the cultural cuckolds of the culturally retarded philo-Semitic mongrel anti-nation known as the United States, I think the answer is pretty obvious, though no contemporary ‘Aryan’ would ever have the gall to admit it.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 5:40 PM
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