Thursday, 25 October 2018

The Man Who had his Hair Cut Short (De Man die Zijin Haar Kort Liet Knippen) (1965)

The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short

“The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short” (De man die zijn haar kort liet knippen) is a weird experience. I know, these weird experiences seem to be piling up, that is the sixties in movies. But, yeah, this is pretty strange.

It actually does not start out that way. This Belgian movie starts out with Govert Miereveld (Senne Rouffaer) going through his morning rituals in order to prepare for a big day: graduation day for the girls at his school and his appointment as the new headmaster of the school. It is very naturalistic except for one detail, we are listening in to Goverts thoughts and they are… disturbing. Turns out this married man with children is having a secret crush on one of the school girls (yuck!) and this is driving him, literally, mad.

At the school ceremony all Govert can think of is that this is the last time he will see Fran (Beata Tyszkiewicz) and he is desperate to tell her, but he does not manage. Instead he watches her sing.

Change of scene. Govert Miereveld is now picked up by Professor Mato (Hector Camerlynck) and his assistant to drive out to an obduction of a decayed corpse at a cemetery. It is pretty gross and Govert does not feel too well. They stay overnight in a local hotel where Miereveld has an encounter with Fran who is now a famous singer. Late at night he seeks her out in her room and they have a very weird dialogue ending with her asking him to kill her. He shoots her and is devastated at what he has done.

Change of scene. It seems to be ten years later and Miereveld is an inmate at… not sure, a prison or a mental institute. He sees a newsreel of Fran singing and, realizing it is a recent film, he learns that apparently he did not kill her and he is mightily relieved.

At face value this makes very little sense. Especially that dialogue in the hotel room seems more like Govert putting his own words in her mouth and the fact that he fell asleep in a chair just before could indicate that he is dreaming it all. Somehow the corpse the examined earlier is supposed to be her father and the gun is the same that shot him. Seriously I did not understand half of that conversation. 

I tried to look up a summary of the movie but all I could find was very brief and indicated that Govert Miereveld is getting deeper and deeper into a psychosis that makes him create his own reality and as we see his version of reality we have no idea what is true and what is not. Normally we are helped by some obscurity but the naturalistic filming convinces us that what we see is reality. Only the sounds take on an ominous hollow texture when his touch on reality is slipping. That and his prolific sweating.

There is of course a deeper story than a man going nuts, I am just not smart enough to unravel it. It could be as simple as an obsession gone wrong, but it could also be him judging and failing himself, needing an outside agent to condemn him. Or it could simply be: teacher, leave them school girls alone. 

As much as this was a weird movie it was also strangely fascinating. I liked the crisp pictures and the acting that both made this very real and the soundscape is just right to throw us off balance. It could be a movie I would want to watch again in an attempt to understand it better, but mental illness always scares me, so I may take a rain check on that. Still, for that obscure, unique experience I think I would dare to recommend this movie.

The title is about as obscure as the rest of the movie. No idea what it is supposed to mean.


  1. I'm sort of in the same place you are with this. I'm not sure I understood it, but I should probably watch it again one of these days.

    1. Yeah, I am just not sure a single rewatch is enough. It is facinating stuff but very difficult to grasp.