7 user 15 critic

Head Against the Wall (1959)

La tête contre les murs (original title)
In order to get rid of his troublesome son François, Maître Gérane manages to have him committed to a mental hospital owned by Dr. Varmont, a supporter of traditional treatments, in ... See full summary »



(novel) (as Hervé Bazin de l'Académie Goncourt), (adaptation) | 1 more credit »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Therese (1962)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

After Thérèse is acquitted of trying to poison her husband, Bernard Desqueyroux, she recalls the events that lead to her being charged. At the beginning of her marriage to Bernard, the only... See full summary »

Director: Georges Franju
Stars: Emmanuelle Riva, Philippe Noiret, Edith Scob
Judex (1963)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Favraux, an unscrupulous banker, receives a threatening note, signed by "Judex", demanding that he pay back the people he has swindled. He refuses, and apparently dies after a midnight ... See full summary »

Director: Georges Franju
Stars: Channing Pollock, Francine Bergé, Edith Scob
Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

When he learns his days are numbered old count Hervé de Kéraudren decides to hide in a secret alcove and to die there, just to annoy his heirs. As a result of his body not being found the ... See full summary »

Director: Georges Franju
Stars: Pierre Brasseur, Pascale Audret, Marianne Koch
Nuits rouges (1974)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

The butler of the writer Maxime de Borrego goes to the store of an old lady and tells that his boss probably knows the location of the Templars treasure, expecting to receive a reward. The ... See full summary »

Director: Georges Franju
Stars: Gayle Hunnicutt, Jacques Champreux, Josephine Chaplin
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

In the First World War, when Paris is expected to fall to the Germans, the attractive widow, Princesse de Bormes, organises a convoy of cars to evacuate the wounded from the front, and ... See full summary »

Director: Georges Franju
Stars: Emmanuelle Riva, Jean Servais, Fabrice Rouleau
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

Serge Mouret is a frail and devout young priest in a tough country parish. When he falls down and loses his memory, he is nursed back to health by Albine, the beautiful carefree niece of ... See full summary »

Director: Georges Franju
Stars: Francis Huster, Gillian Hills, André Lacombe
Documentary | Short | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

An early example of ultra-realism, this movie contrasts the quiet, bucolic life in the outskirts of Paris with the harsh, gory conditions inside the nearby slaughterhouses. Describes the ... See full summary »

Director: Georges Franju
Stars: Georges Hubert, Nicole Ladmiral, Alfred Macquart
Drama | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A surgeon causes an accident which leaves his daughter disfigured, and goes to extremes to give her a new face.

Director: Georges Franju
Stars: Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Juliette Mayniel
L'Enfance Nue (1968)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

An anguished foster child takes to mischief and lies as his foster parents do their best to love and care for him. But it might be too little, too late in this emotionally devastating portrayal of the orphaned child.

Director: Maurice Pialat
Stars: Michel Terrazon, Linda Gutenberg, Raoul Billerey
Comedy | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

A mild-mannered government bureaucrat discovers that he has the ability to walk through walls.

Director: Jean Boyer
Stars: Bourvil, Joan Greenwood, Gérard Oury
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Blaise Starrett is a rancher at odds with homesteaders when outlaws hold up the small town. The outlaws are held in check only by their notorious leader, but he is diagnosed with a fatal wound and the town is a powder keg waiting to blow.

Director: André De Toth
Stars: Robert Ryan, Burl Ives, Tina Louise
Les copains (1965)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Seven pals decide to take a few days'holidays to free up the time necessary to pull three enormous pranks. Their aim is to ridicule three established bodies: the army, the church and the ... See full summary »

Director: Yves Robert
Stars: Philippe Noiret, Pierre Mondy, Claude Rich


Cast overview, first billed only:
Dr. Varmont
Dr. Emery
Jean-Pierre Mocky ...
François Gérane
Maître Gérane
Jean Ozenne ...
Comte Elzéar de Chambrelle
Thomy Bourdelle ...
Colonel Donnadieu
Rudy Lenoir ...
Le planqué
Henri San Juan ...
Patron du billard
La folle qui chante
René Alié
Luc Andrieux ...
Un infirmier
Doudou Babet ...
Le Noir
Claude Badolle


In order to get rid of his troublesome son François, Maître Gérane manages to have him committed to a mental hospital owned by Dr. Varmont, a supporter of traditional treatments, in constant conflict with Dr. Emery, whose therapy takes the psychology of patients into account. François soon makes friends with Heurtevent, a sweet epileptic, and both decide to escape from the place. Their attempt is a failure and Heurtevent, unable to get over what he considers a return to hell, commits suicide. But rebellious François tries again and this time around he is successful. He finds shelter at his friend Stephanie's home... Written by Guy Bellinger

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

20 March 1959 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Head Against the Wall  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Thomy Bourdelle's 77th and final film. See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

But dreaming is a lie.
25 March 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

La tête contre les murs (AKA: The Keepers/Head Against the Wall) is directed by Georges Franju and adapted to screenplay by Jean-Pierre Mocky from the book written by Herve Bazin. It stars Mocky, Pierre Brasseur, Paul Meurisse, Anouk Aimée, Charles Aznavour and Jean Galland. Music is by Maurice Jarre and cinematography by Eugen Schüfftan.

François Gérane (Mocky) is seen as a loose cannon by his father and finds himself committed to a mental asylum. Within the walls he finds two doctors who have very different ideas on how to administer psychiatric care. Struggling to keep hold of his sanity, François finds solace in a friendship with fellow patient Heurtevent (Aznavour) and the visits he receives from Stéphanie (Aimée). But will François ever get out? And if so will his sanity be intact?

Jean-Pierre Mocky had initially planned to direct the film himself, but Franju was brought in and it proved to be a superb meeting of minds. Mocky's youthful zest and grasp of the Gérane character's predicament marries up beautifully with Franju's hauntingly poetic leanings.

In core essence the narrative is about the inadequacies of psychiatric care at that period in time, with a clash of ideals between two doctors acting as the axis. The story is actually based on fact, the author of the novel, Herve Bazin, really having been sectioned by his own family. This adds a harrowing air of realism to proceedings, and with Franju firmly cloaking the film with a disquiet atmosphere, the results often feel like being part of some feverish nightmare.

This is what it sounds like when doves fly!

Technically the pic comes close to being a tour de force, the crisp black and white photography magnificently emphasising Franju's eye for off-kilter details. There's is much grim imagery on show, where weird models made by the patients and the hospital cemetery prove particularly eerie. The hospital itself is cold on the inside with chessboard flooring holding the weight of lifeless looking walls. Exterior of the building is ominous, especially at night where it's transformed into a Gothic place of secrets never to be told.

Some scenes stay embedded in the mind, for better or worse as it happens. A suicide, a violent attack, an escape attempt through a burning field, the two doctors arguing about the ethics of their beliefs in front of a cage full of beautiful doves, the reoccurring shots of the poor patients in their surroundings, or the devastating noir finale; both in visual excellence and story denouement, the film consistently arrests your attention. Jarre's musical score is eccentric in the extreme, fluctuating between being creepy, jolly, wistful or just plain weird, it's perfectly at one with the material on the page. While the cast all give quality performances, especially Aznavour. Great film making, smart, challenging and daring. 8/10

The Masters of Cinema DVD release is a beautiful restored print doing justice to Franju and Schüfftan's skills, and the 48 page booklet is most impressive. Unfortunately the extras really don't add up to much. Two videos of interviews with Mocky and Aznavour taken in 2008 add up to just over 13 minutes, with the Aznavour one only 4 minutes and hardly about the film really! The Mocky interview is excellent, some real insights into the making of the film, his thoughts on the pic's importance, and some frightening revelations during filming. But at 9 minutes in run time you can't help but be annoyed there wasn't considerably more of that interview.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: