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Review: Friday (1981)

Directed by: | 96 minutes | | Actors: , , Herbert Flack, , Hugo Van Den Berghe, , , , , , Kok, Jakob Beks, Lydia Billiet, Dirk Celis, Bart Dauwe , Fons Derre, Rosa Geinger, Blanka Heirman, Veerle Heyvaert, , Wim Serlie

Hugo Claus (1929-2008) was an exceptionally productive multi-talent. The Flemish writer was awarded the Prize of Dutch Literature in 1986 for his extensive oeuvre, which spanned various disciplines: prose, poetry, theater and visual arts. He also wrote screenplays and worked as a director. He achieved his greatest fame with his novel “Het grief van België” (1983). Claus was the most awarded author from the Dutch language area. In 1968 he directed his first film “The Enemies”. Because, he would later say: “People my age have been greatly influenced by the film. I wanted to get as close to that world as possible. The dream was what it was all about. The dream has the allure of the film, of the image “. It would be thirteen years before he would direct another film. That became “Vrijdag” (1981), based on his own play and with his ex-girlfriend, the Dutch actress Kitty Courbois, in one of the leading roles.

“Friday” has a taboo-breaking theme: Forty-something Georges Vermeersch (Frank Aendenboom) has spent two years in prison for incest with his daughter (a young Hilde van Mieghem). When he is finally released, he discovers that his wife Jeanne (Kitty Courbois) has hooked up with Erik (Herbert Flack), of whom she now also has a daughter. Despite his uncomfortable return home, Georges is determined to come to terms with his wife and her new lover. Jeanne, who had not yet expected her husband at home, does not know what to do with the situation and Erik tries to keep the peace in his own, nonchalant way. Everyone has good intentions, but mutual misunderstanding and mutual reproaches are annoyingly in the way of complete reconciliation.

Incest and adultery – it is not nothing that Hugo Claus saddles his audience with, but it did get him the necessary attention from the media. Not the actions of the characters, but the consequences on their lives are central to “Friday”. The film clearly shows that it is based on a play, but Claus keeps it dynamic with dreamy flashbacks and a cast-iron cast. Frank Aendenboom in particular is splashing off the canvas. His inscrutable gaze cannot be read: Georges is fickle and elusive. Sometimes he has a fragile attitude and shows sincere remorse, only to go completely out of hand not much later. The condemning looks of local residents cut him through the soul; we feel his pain. Opposite is Kitty Courbois, an insecure woman who is torn apart by her love for two men. Herbert Flack stands between them. With a sheepish look and hesitant jokes, he tries to cool down the heated battle. All three are credible characters, acting in a completely credible way in an impossible situation like this and that is precisely the power of “Friday”.

Claus has turned it into a stylish film adaptation. The story may be set in a working-class environment, but that does not prevent the director from turning it into a stylistic tour de force. Especially the dreamy flashbacks, in which Hilde van Mieghem plays a crucial role as daughter Christiane, are special to watch. Warm colors and soft focus. The scenes in the present are filmed much tighter and are carried by the actors. It is mainly Aendenboom and Courbois who are “Friday” above average. They make the tense atmosphere in the Vermeersch house tangible and draw the viewer into the hotbed. Convincing actor film by Hugo Claus, which proves that he has more talents than just a good pen.

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