A woman disguised as a man or otherwise around is the theme of many comedies in which most of our pleasure comes out when the transvestite is almost being caught. But this movie from Harry Kumel doesn't need the suspenseful moments or the jokes about transvestism, because he has made a tragedy out of it. He uses the premise to inform us that the heroine is feeling safe when she is in disguise, because in this way she avoids prosecution for the murder of her lover 15 years ago. But this disguise also destroys her freedom and identity, because nobody knows anymore who she is and why she lives. We need other people to define ourselves. And if these people think we are someone else we feel lost.
Harry Kumel uses techniques from Griffith, the sober mise-en-scene from Carl Theodor Dreyer and the themes of Sternberg( whom he dedicates the film to) to tell this story. But he makes of all these different visions a very personal film. It is his first movie and he already shows that cinema is capable of complex feelings. He shoots Belgian landscapes of pure beauty and frenzied walks through the forest and he lets all these images emphasize the isolation of the heroine. The only real weakness of this movie is that the people who call the disguised woman 'monsieur Hawarden', had to be given a guide-dog for their blindness. But if you throw away Hollywoodstandards for 100 minutes and prepare yourself for some art from the Netherlands and Belgium, then you will not be disappointed.
If you liked this movie, Harry Kumel's Eline Vere is the next one to see. It shows much parallels with this movie.
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