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MONSIEUR HAWARDEN

Belgium / Netherlands, 1968 (MIFF 1969, Programme 3)

Director: Harry Kümel

A coach arrives in a village in the Ardennes in the mid-nineteenth century bringing an elegant gentleman and his lady companion. Monsieur Hawarden is the surviving member of a family of Viennese aristocrats and after some years of travelling he wishes to settle and forget the past. . . .

This strange film is based on a Flemish novel inspired by an actual diary written around 1850 by one Meriora Gillibrand. Harry Kumel dedicates his first feature to von Sternberg, but in its cool, disciplined intensity it is more redolent of the work of the great Scandinavian directors. It is one of the most handsome costume pictures to emerge from Europe recently, but its modern idiom, freely indulging a swinging camera for an elegant pattern of disturbed, a-rhythmic images, creates an unusual period tragedy which places its creator in the ranks of prominent directors.

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