If this film is the one that entered Belgian cinema into modernism, as the Book puts it, then modern Belgium culture is a weird thing indeed. The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short appears almost completely plotless at first glance, and indeed the first two-thirds of the film or so don’t really tie together very much, if at all. And then the third act happens, and your brain goes… what is this I don’t even. Turns out those throwaway scenes you thought (and by that I mean I thought) were unnecessary had critical meaning after all… or do they? There is a plot here, that much I am certain of; it’s just going to take a little looking in order to find it, that’s all.
The film, after an introductory snippet featuring the main character and his wife and daughter, begins with an extended sequence at a barbershop, as the main character Govert Miereveld has his already thinning hair cut, shaped, and styled, as well as massaged and oiled and generally pampered. You would think this scene alone would be where the film gets its name, but oh no, good sir; this film is far, far too crafty to leave it at that. We then goose-step from meaningless scene to meaningless scene, each seemingly with its own plot point that could potentially mature into the film’s main plot, but doesn’t for some reason. Even an hour into the hour-and-a-half film, I had no idea what the real plot was, and that was probably the film’s intention. Then the climax started, and suddenly everything else, according to the film, now took on monumental meaning (I’m still not sure whether it really did or not, but the score and the editing and particularly the facial expressions of Govert in this scene certainly imply that they do). Then the climax was over, and the denouement commenced, and the film fricking. did it. again. What. The frigging. Hell. If you are anything less than completely disoriented by the time this film ends, then you don’t get my praise, because you clearly didn’t watch it hard enough.
If you’re unfamiliar with how I write my reviews, here’s a quick explanation: As I am watching the film, I jot down any notes that come to my head. Then, once the film is done, I arrange them and add opening and closing paragraphs, and generally don’t do very much more. But this film, this film threw me. It seemed for every half hour of the film, I ended up throwing out the notes I had written prior, as they didn’t make sense anymore with what I now knew about the film. The last twenty minutes or so alone, I pretty much stopped completely, and waited for the film to be completely over before even thinking about what I had just watched. It took a few scenes and shots for the film to actually be over (the final scene with Govert taking apart a wooden stool, for instance, seemed superfluous, as if the film had ended proper the scene before), but once it did, I pretty much just sat there, wondering how in the world I was going to form coherent thoughts about this one to put in what would modestly be called a review. Should you see this? I don’t really know; not because it’s bad, but because it’s tricky. Because I don’t know if virtually every person who will read this review will be able to process this one, and I can’t even tell if that’s a good thing or not. One thing’s for sure, though; I, at some point, am probably going to have to watch this one again, and for me personally, that is very much a good thing.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10