Films byTexts by Dirk Lauwaert

Dirk Lauwaert (1944–2013) was a Belgian film critic, essayist and one of the most prolific writers on cinema in Belgium. Drawn to cinema from an early age, his first real encounter with cinema took place during his high school education in the Sint-Jozefcollege, a Jesuit college in Turnhout, where he saw the films of Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy, among others. After this, Lauwaert’s father took him to the revolutionary Filmforum screenings by “filmcleric” Jos Burvenich, a man from the clergy who considered cinema an art form and became a promoter of new European cinema in Belgium. Lauwaert wrote diaries from an early age, up until the year 1965, when he first started writing for magazines, the first being Universitas, effectively starting his career as a film critic, though his writing was not only concerned with cinema but also fashion, photography and art. Throughout his life, his texts appeared in magazines such as Film en Televisie, Kunst en Cultuur, Andere Sinema and De Witte Raaf. Lauwaert also taught at RITCS (the former RITS) and LUCA School of Arts (the former Hogeschool Sint-Lukas). His writing was published in several books, including Artikels. De Gelaarsde Kat (1996), Dromen van een expeditie. Geschriften over film 1971–2001 (2006), Lichtpapier. Teksten over fotografie (2007) [FOMU, Antwerp], Onrust (2011) and De geknipte stof. Schrijven over mode (2013) [Lannoo]. Several of his texts have been translated into English and French on Sabzian.

Article NL EN
27.07.2022

Film was an empty theatre, during the day, in which artificial light showed everything the sun outside could never show. It was the most blissful way of being: all alone in the presence of an intense illusion. Life watched more fascinating than life lived. The other so much more fascinating than the self, a substitute dream for the self.

Article NL EN
8.06.2022

Serge Daney is the force of a surprising opening gambit. In the form of a question, or the negation of obviousness, as a rhyme of ideas or right away with a brutal argumentation that stalemates you, “if... then”. The strategy of the brusque but also panicky outburst. The ground is not prepared, the argument not introduced. He parachutes the reader straight into the war zone. Bullets whizz around his ears, mines surround him. But the author says: I will lead you through it!

Article EN
3.11.2021

The western used to be the secret garden of male imagination. Access to it has been closed off, the paradise parceled out, its inhabitants dispossessed. Next up are “the men who like technology”, but cowboys like horses, landscapes, showdowns. For this, freedom is the condition, reward and punishment.

Conversation NL EN
12.05.2021

“It’s much more enjoyable to watch theatre than to make theatre, and it is much more enjoyable to make films than to watch a film, because film is a much more evolved medium when it comes to the material you are interpreting. Imagine to simply steal someone’s face, their appearance, capturing it at the angle you’re most attracted to, where it moves you, and to try to piece together all that you’ve stolen afterwards during the editing; that you can then fabricate something very moving.”

Article NL EN
12.05.2021

It is an intriguing film because of its original position in the field of Flemish film production. This is not some attempt at a standard technical finish that’s devoid of aesthetic politics. It is a clearly defined boundary, an emphatic style within which the entire film must develop. This is an unusual (almost suicidal) road for a young (Flemish) filmmaker. His colleagues are out to make attractive films that people will consider solid and professionally made. Films that are able to attract official subsidies, but only lead the public to believe that “we” might one day be able to make one too. 

Article NL EN
12.05.2021

“It’s a sort of acrobatic distance, here in Hedda Gabler, that makes you hold your breath in suspense (the acting is wonderful!) until it should be released by laughter. There’s a spluttering retelling of a wildly unlikely story, a kooky imitation of melodramatic conflicts, a travesty of critical unriddling, offering this extremely slow, calm countercurrent full of rapids and waterfalls.”

Article NL EN
10.02.2021

TV-programme producers occasionally try to make their works available for repeated viewing in addition to one-off screenings. As is the case with Voyage à Paris, which is like a beautiful poem you want to read several times, or a piece of music you want to hear several times. This visual essay contains a couple of passages you will remember especially well, transitions that are so intriguing that you will want to further savour them. 

Article EN
6.01.2021

Film is (and this is my fundamental assumption) not art in the bourgeois-humanist sense of the word. It is an industry and a very important part of the so-called culture industry at that. Those who switch from the category of art to the category of culture industry ultimately make a political-ideological choice, the consequences of which can hardly be overrated.

Article NL EN
8.04.2020

For twenty-five years, there was fascist ossification and inbreeding, the heyday of a couple of genres that provided an utterly distorted picture of reality, or rather, that regarded the very dialogue with reality as superfluous. In a grandiose gesture of liberation, these self-sufficient diagrams of comedies and dramas are dismissed. Suddenly, reality itself becomes visible.

Article EN
22.05.2019

Disarming. There’s always something disarming about the massive. The massive of impudence; the massive of self-assurance; the massive of collectivity; the massive of vulgarity; the massive of being right. Television is carried by all these incarnations of the massive. It is founded in it.

Article NL EN
13.02.2019
Dirk Lauwaert 1975
Introduction by
Translated by

It is not a complicated or difficult film, rather a very simple and clean one. But it is not a natural, spontaneous film. The clarity and legibility of Jeanne Dielman is the result of self-discipline. In our culture clarity needs to be pragmatic-efficient, an argument needs to have the form of a road, including road signs. Force and energy need to be channelled into activist trajectories time and again, need to be labelled with a name and an address. Akerman slipped by and through all of that.

Article EN
14.03.2018

In Wanda, everything remains en suspens, Loden’s shots begin a bit too soon, last a bit too long. The dictatorial “Action!” and “Cut!” of the director – bellowed out with such sadistic authority – is here prefaced by a “maybe”. The frame, too, is here too wide, there too narrow. Each shot unravels at edges. There is no other way to escape the constraint of the film set except to act carefully, as if you know nothing about it.

Compilation NL EN
11.05.2016

Film is fundamentally the choice of a viewpoint in space, toward that space. Film is recording and therefore fundamentally contemporary (one cannot record that which is gone, the past). The spectator always watches contemporary images (even when they have aged, they remain contemporary through their model). This disposition sees to it that those who love films become ‘contemporary’ with every film.