Een vrouw tussen hond en wolf

Een vrouw tussen hond en wolf
Femme entre chien et loup

In Antwerp during and after the Nazi occupation, a young woman, Lieve, is torn between her love for two men with opposite ideals: her Flemish nationalist husband Adriaan (Rutger Hauer), who goes off to fight with the German troops on the Eastern front, and a wounded French resistance fighter, François.


« Quinze ans de la vie de Lieve » / “Fifteen years in the life of Lieve”

Freeze frame closing title of the film


“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 colours 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.”

André Delvaux1


« Avec ce film, André Delvaux se démarque du réalisme magique pour se situer dans la réalité politique. Il ne s'agit plus d'évoluer par glissments progressifs vers l'imaginaire, mais, au contraire, de s'ancrer dans une période historique dramatique: l'avant en l'après seconde Guerre mondiale. (...) Le film est l'histoire du lent cheminement d'une conscience innocente, qui va passer de la certitude au trouble, de l'adhésion à la passion, pour ensuite, avec courage, se trouver elle-même. C'est l'amour ou la perte de l'amour qui va être le médiateur de l'éveil, du choix. L'idéologie passe ici par l'affectif. Delvaux pose un regard de sociologue critique. S'il a un point de vue non ambigu, il propose des personnages qui remettent l'histoire à une échelle individuelle: celle du droit à l'erreur, de la souffrance, du courage ou de l'indignité. Son point de vue, celui de Lieve, l'autorise à la fois d'être très critique avec “le petit clergé flamand”, et, d'autre part, de s'éloigner de la réjouissance des scènes d'épuration. En empruntant le petit bout de la lorgnette, il dit des choses très fortes, celles qui font passer la grande histoire par le désarroi de l'humain. »

“André Delvaux ruilt hier het magisch realisme, dat gewoonlijk de boventoon voert in zijn oeuvre, voor de politieke werkelijkheid. Het verhaal verschuift niet naar het imaginaire, maar wortelt sterk in een dramatisch tijdsgewricht: de periode voor en na de Tweede Wereldoorlog. (...) De film volgt de trage ontwikkeling van een onschuldig bewustzijn: van zekerheid naar vertwijfeling, van betrokkenheid naar passie, en tenslotte naar zelfkennis. Het is de liefde, of het verlies ervan, die aanzet tot bewustwording, tot het maken van keuzes – ideologie vervat in affectiviteit. Delvaux formuleert een kritische sociologische visie. Terwijl hij ondubbelzinnig stelling neemt, zet hij personages neer die geschiedenis uitzetten op een individuele schaal: die van het recht op het maken van fouten, het lijden, de moed of de onwaardigheid. Door dit gezichtspunt (dat van Lieve) te omhelzen, kan hij zich bijzonder kritisch opstellen tegenover de ‘lagere Vlaamse geestelijkheid’, maar ook afstand nemen van de vreugde die uitgaat van de zuiveringsscènes. Door situaties van één kant te belichten, weet hij zeer sterke dingen te zeggen, vertelt hij de grote geschiedenis via de ontreddering van het individu.”

Jacqueline Aubenas2


“In the mid-seventies the government encouraged collaboration between Flemish novelists and filmmakers. Funds were provided, for example, to enable the filmmaker André Delvaux to collaborate with the author and scriptwriter Ivo Michiels. Both set to work to create a story in which the central figure is Lieve, a petitbourgeois woman who lives through the German occupation, the Liberation and ensuing repression, and who becomes worldly wise through her relationship with two men. This tranche de vie covering around fifteen years is made up of three parts. (...) Michiels developed this plot in such a stylised manner that the script became a film novel in its own right. It appeared as a book in 1977 under the title A Twilight Garden (Een tuin tussen hond en wolf).

It was the first film about collaboration, resistance and repression in Belgium during and after the Second World War. As an intimate portrait of a woman, which depicts everyday, interiorised fascism within a man-woman relationship, it is also one of the best productions in thirty years of Flemish film history. Delvaux managed to structure his film and compose it both visually and musically in such a way that he immediately left his Flemish colleagues, who often worked in an overly illustrative way, far behind. This is due above all to his visual / pictorial style and his insight into the possibilities and functionality of the language of film.”

Wim de Poorter3


“I came to an agreement with Ivo Michiels as to how we would do the screenplay and the detail of the film we were to make together. Simply, I had asked him, as a Flemish author, to write this screenplay on the basis of weekly meetings between us. And we wrote down what we discussed. And I accepted that he would publish it under his own name [as the 1977 prizewinning novel, Een tuin tussen hond en wolf], since it was his writing. but it's a screenplay conceived by the two of us. As a result, we may say that the formula used in the credits is correct: the screenplay is by Michiels and myself, but it has been written by Michiels.”

André Delvaux4


“When Delvaux made Woman in a Twilight Garden, Flemish nationalist politics was beginning again to harden its stance with the emergence of the Vlaams Blok party. Breaking a longstanding taboo in Belgian cinema on the discussion of wartime collaboration, Delvaux felt a need to warn his fellow Belgians about a potential resurgence of fascism by representing on film a period in which an earlier flirtation with it had taken place. (...) Ivo Michiels, unlike Delvaux, spent the wartime period in the Antwerp area and so was able to imbue his script with the authenticity of local experience. (...) Unlike in conventional war films, there are no public heroes, famous speeches, or epic scenes of combat. Nor is there any martial music, instead we hear popular tunes performed on radios or in bars and at wedding parties. Colors are not those of flags, uniforms, and panoramic landscapes, but of clothes, interiors, and gardens. By using color and sound thus to express nuances of memory, Delvaux avoids spectacle elements that tend towards a generalized, extrapersonal perspective in portraying historical cause, offering instead an intimate, painterly chronicle of private lives under circumstances of personal and historical duress. It is as if Lieve, the ‘woman in a twilight garden’ becomes the equivalent, in Delvaux's filmic eye, of a still life by Vermeer.”

Philip Mosley5


“More than any of Delvaux's other films, Een vrouw tussen hond en wolf deals with the problems of Belgian identity. (...) The story is of a French-speaking Flemish girl, Lieve, played by a French actress, who's married to an idealistic Flemish nationalist, played by a Dutch actor, [while] a Walloon resistance fighter forces her to shelter him in her house. (...) A French-speaking woman, bearing a typically Flemish name but without speaking the language, thus becomes the wife of a Flemish nationalist collaborator and the lover of a French-speaking resistance fighter. (...) The choice of actors emphasises Belgium's Latin/Germanic opposition.

While events unfold chronologically on screen, colour, music and objects, especially the frequent shots of the garden taken from different angles, convey almost as much as the events themselves. Images, sounds and seemingly anodyne facts evoke tone and mood which reflect Belgium's complex political situation in 1939.”

Lieve Spaas6

  • 1Woman in a Twilight Garden,” Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), May 27, 1980.
  • 2Jacqueline Aubenas, “Een vrouw tussen hond en wolf,” In Marianne Thys (ed.), Belgian Cinema/Le Cinéma Belge/De Belgische Film (Gent: Ludion, 1999): 619.
  • 3Wim de Poorter, “From Y Mañana? to Manneken Pis: Thirty Years of Flemish Filmmaking,” The Low Countries: Arts and Society in Flanders and the Netherlands. A Yearbook (Rekkem: Ons Erfdeel, 1997-1998), 133-134. Translated by Julian Ross.
  • 4Interview with André Delvaux by Philip Mosley, cited and translated in Philip Mosley, “Anxiety, Memory, and Place in Belgian Cinema,” In Janelle Blankenship & Tobias Nagl (eds.), European Visions: Small Cinemas in Transition (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2015), 124. Originally published in Philip Mosley, “From Book to Film: André Delvaux's Alchemy of the Image,” French Review, 5 (1994), 817-18.
  • 5Philip Mosley, “Anxiety, Memory, and Place in Belgian Cinema,” In Janelle Blankenship & Tobias Nagl (eds.), European Visions: Small Cinemas in Transition (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2015), 123, 125.
  • 6Lieve Spaas, Francophone Film: A Struggle for Identity (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000), 19-20.
UPDATED ON 18.12.2019