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THE CONSCRIPT

Belgium, 1974 (MIFF 1975)

Director: Roland Verhavert

This film is based on a novel by Hendrik Conscience and is set in 1833. Recruiting for the army is being carried out by drawing lots in the village square. This type of conscription was known as the Blood Law. Jan draws a free lot, but is persuaded to take someone else's place for a sum of money.

In the army, he is soon involved in brutal and degrading situations. Meanwhile his fiancee, Katrien, tries to keep the small farm going: she ploughs the land, cuts peat and works ten to fourteen hours a day in order to pay the rent and perhaps make a meagre profit. In the barracks, Jan's money is stolen. He has lost everything he made by taking over another man's term of three years' service. Back on the farm, the goods are seized by bailiffs, because Katrien cannot rake enough together to pay the rent. Jan becomes blind, due to malnutrition and unhygienic surroundings, and is discharged. Katrien comes to take him home, and their return journey leads to the last, terrifying climax.

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