The first seconds on the road to fame for the 18 year old “Muscles from Brussels” Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Today I’ll be focussing on another film by André Delvaux, ‘Een Vrouw tussen Hond en Wolf’ (Femme entre chien et loup a.k.a Woman Between Wolf and Dog, 1979), which is the first Belgian film to deal head on with the Nazi occupation of our country and the touchy subject of the resistance and collaboration during the Second World War, which is being handle with a lot of delicacy.

The film starts in 1940 in Antwerp and is seen through the eyes of Lieve (Marie-Christine Barrault). She’s married to Adriaan (Rutger Hauer) a flemish nationalist who leaves her behind to serve on the eastern front with the German army . During his absence she’s starting an affair with François (Roger Van Hool) who’s part of the resistance and is hiding in her house, hence the title. The rest you’ll have to discover yourselves.

We don’t really get to see the war which is waging outside, it’s presence is suggested via a masterful use of sound. E.g. there’s a great postcoital scene were we see Lieve and François laying naked on a bed. Suddenly we hear bombs falling in the distance and we get to see close-ups of parts of their body reacting to the sounds of war. One of the wonderfully directed scenes in the film that -deservedly so- make André Delvaux one of our most respected filmmakers.

The film does suffer somewhat from the so-called europudding syndrome. The Dutch actor Rutger Hauer (dutch accent) and French actress Marie-Christine Barrault (dubbed into flemish) are not really ideal to convincingly depict flemish characters.

Apart from that the film really is a who’s who of popular flemish actors that where or would become famous, from Senne Rouffaer (a Delvaux regular) Jenny Tanghe, Janine Bisschops, Johnny Voners, Gene Bervoets, Marleen Merckx, Karel Vingerhoets to the recently deceased Greta Van Langhendonck. There’s also a brief cameo of journalist Johan Anthierens.

And believe it or not it has the very first on screen appearance by Jean-Claude Van Varenberg or the martial artist formerly known as as Jean-Claude van Damme, a.k.a. “The Muscles from Brussels” who must have been about 18 years old at the time the scene was shot. It’s a bit of a scoop as this job as an extra is not mentioned on IMDb, wikipedia, … but judge for yourselves. In the scene in the cinema on the bottom right next to Marie-Christine Barrault sitting on the same row you’ll be able to spot the young JCVD.
Prior to that, about 15 minutes into the film you can actually see the first JCVD ‘fight scene’ with Rutger Hauer no less, look for the soldier at the bottom drinking from a bottle. Nicely directed by Delvaux in a single take.

You can buy the DVD on the Cinematek website.

Jan Bollen

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