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28 July 2014

Roland Verhavert (1927-2014)

Om Friday 26 July 2014, Belgian film director Roland Verhavert passed away. He directed 44 films between 1955 and 1993. In 1955, he had his breakthrough when he co-directed the film Meeuwen sterven in de haven/Seagulls Die in the Harbour (1955), which was entered into the 1956 Cannes Film Festival. In 1974, his film De loteling/The Conscript (1973) was entered into the 24th Berlin International Film Festival. Verhavert died of a heart attack, aged 87.

Julien Schoenaerts in Meeuwen sterven in de haven
Belgian postcard by Ed. Prevot, Antwerp. Photo: Metropool Film. Publicity still for Meeuwen sterven in de haven/Seagulls Die in the Harbour (1955) with Julien Schoenaerts.

Seagulls die in the harbour


Meeuwen sterven in de haven/Seagulls die in the harbour/Les mouettes meurent au port (1955) was a Belgian thriller, directed by Roland Verhavert, Rik Kuypers and Ivo Michiels, who also wrote the script.

It starred Julien Schoenaerts as the stranger and Dora van der Groen as a prostitute, but also the city itself played an important part.

The story deals with a tormented, nameless man, on the run after the murder on his wife, ending up in harbour town Antwerp. He is only understood by a little orphan and two women who want to help him, but then others force him to kidnap the child.

The film meant the film debut of Schoenaerts and was also the breakthrough for Van der Groen as film actress. Because of its theme and its expressionist style, the film reminds of The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949) and On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 1954).

Meeuwen sterven in de haven/Seagulls Die in the Harbour was well received nationally and internationally, and was selected for festivals like Cannes, where it was even nominated for a Golden Palm.

After being shown at the Belgian Week in Moscow, the film was sold to the Soviet Union where it became a hit.

In Belgium it was praised for its fresh look and - in contrast to the usual local comedies - its international appeal. Flemish critics hailed it as the first Flemish film, others even as the first Belgian one.

Dora van der Groen in Meeuwen sterven in de haven
Belgian postcard by Ed. Prevot, Antwerp. Photo: Metropool Film. Publicity still for Meeuwen sterven in de haven/Seagulls Die in the Harbour (1955) with Dora van der Groen.

Source: Wikipedia (Dutch, French and English) and IMDb.

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