Carnival in Flanders (1935)

Carnival in Flanders (1935)

“Young man, hell has nothing like Spanish fury.”

In 17th century Flanders, the mayor (Andre Alerme) of the town of Boom panics when he hears about an impending Spanish invasion, and decides to fake his own death; meanwhile, his determined wife (Francoise Rosay) uses the situation to her own advantage, staging a festive carnival for the merry “marauders” and tasking a Spanish chapelain (Louis Jouvet) with marrying her daughter (Micheline Cheirel) to the painter (Bernard Lancret) she really loves rather than the butcher (Alfred Adam) her husband has made an arrangement with.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Battle of the Sexes
  • Comedy
  • French Films
  • Historical Drama
  • Strong Females

Belgian-born writer-director Jacques Feyder was quite prolific during the early days of cinema, working in both France and Hollywood (and for a brief period in England and Germany), but he’s not well-known today. The only Feyder film American audiences may be familiar with is this historical romantic comedy set during an earlier era of European occupation, when “the horrors of war… remained in the memories of the people of the Low Countries,” and there was fear that:

“Our houses will be pillaged and reduced to ashes. Blood will run in the streets, our women will be violated, suckling babes will be hurled from the windows before your very eyes… And you, city fathers, will be mutilated. Believe me: the slightest resistance will bring death to us all.”

What ends up happening in reality is nothing at all like the imagined fears of the men, thus turning this into a charming “if women could rule the world for a day” scenario, as Rosay (Feyder’s real-life wife) makes numerous important decisions with impunity.

It’s all well-played and beautifully staged in terms of period detail — and while it’s not must-see viewing for all film fanatics, it’s well worth a one-time look.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Francoise Rosay as Cornelia de Witte
  • Fine period detail and sets
  • Harry Stradling’s cinematography

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.


One thought on “Carnival in Flanders (1935)

  1. First viewing (5/30/20). Not must-see but it will be of particular interest to those who follow classic French cinema.

    An award-winning film generally held in high regard, it also proved to be a bit controversial (there were protests in Belgium and the film was banned in Bruges.) Satire – esp. political satire – can sometimes get a film into trouble.

    Whatever the film may have stirred up in its day has no doubt ebbed – leaving us with what now appears as a mildly amusing farce. The film hardly feels political at all – but it does almost stand as a feminist statement of sorts.

    Feyder’s direction is lively, as is the cast, and the time-period look of the film is impressive.

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