By : Robbe de Hert

With : Eric Clerckx, Blanka Heirman, Willy Vandermeulen, Paul S'Jongers
Belgique, 1980, PAL, 16/9 - 102 min
toutes zones, couleur, dolby digital 2.0

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English title : WHITEY FROM SICHEM
Original title : DE WITTE VAN SICHEM

Directed by : Robbe de Hert
With : Eric Clerckx, Blanka Heirman, Willy Vandermeulen, Paul S'Jongers
Belgium, 1980, PAL, 16/9 - 102 min
All zones, Colors, dolby digital 2.0
Language : Dutch
Subtitles : English, Dutch, French

Remake of the highly popular 1934 comedy by Jan Vanderheyden and Edith Kiel. The classic novel by Ernest Claes ends up with Robbe De Hert, figurehead of the left-wing filmmakers collective Fugitive Cinema. His version of WHITEY FROM SICHEM is a poignant portrayal of the poor living conditions in the Flanders of 1900. Lewie Verheyden gets beaten frequently, and after school he has to work the land for farmer Coene. To escape this bleak reality, he pulls one prank after another, which results in more beating. Literature and a vivid imagination are his way out. Only as long as it lasts though, because every attempt to escape a fate set out in a cruel present heading for a hopeless future can only be futile and senseless.

WHITEY FROM SICHEM is a typical Flemish film that gives the viewer an idea of how the conditions were at the beginning of this century in Flanders (this is the Dutch-speaking, Northern side of Belgium.) Director Robbe De Hert manages to create a realistic portrait of this particular atmosphere. It represents a world in which poor people have to work hard for little money. They work on the farm or in factories. People were very religious and went to church every Sunday wearing their best clothing. The father was a severe workingman; respected by his children and wife. If any of his children had said or done something wrong, they were to be punished. They were beaten and then they had to kneel on the floor facing the wall and praying for their sins.

But all this is just background information. The actual story is less dramatic. It's about an annoying little fellow who takes pleasure in doing wrong. There are certain rules in life everyone must obey, but he finds it amusing to bend or even break them whenever the opportunity knocks. In short: he has some serious trouble with discipline. Naturally, he is the main character of the film and goes by the name of “De Witte van Sichem” (literally translated: “The white-haired from Sichem”).

Because of the many practical jokes and reckless pranks that endure throughout the entire film, WHITEY FROM SICHEM becomes more and more of a comedy than a drama. Before you even know it, you've forgotten about the dark side of the film. Instead, it is the main character that claims your full attention. This is still, beyond any doubt, Robbe De Hert's best film. He hasn't made too many good films, but this one is a Belgian classic. Also many good acting performances, but Eric Clerckx (as De Witte van Sichem) is “picture perfect”.

Bonus :
Short film DECEMBER THE 19th (1965) by Louis Celis staring Robbe de Hert.

WHITEY FROM SICHEM (2 versions - 1980)
GaASTON'S WAR (1997)