In a chill, wintry Flanders, university lecturer Mathias (Montand) and partner Anne (Aimée) embark on a train journey. Mathias wakes from a doze to see Anne gone and his other fellow passengers all fast asleep. When the train stops in the middle of nowhere, Mathias and two other men, one younger, one older, get off. The train sets off without them and they are reduced to picking their way across inhospitable terrain in search of civilisation. In the dead of night they come to a village where no one understands a word they say. Their vain efforts to make themselves understood create an atmosphere of vague menace and growing unease. The problems of communication may be read as a reflection of the linguistic and cultural schisms in Belgium, although Delvaux has tried harder than most film-makers to both work with and appeal to members of the Flemish and Francophone communities. The pace may seem slow to begin with, but the steady build is shrewdly balanced by the gradual slide into fantasy in the second half of the picture. Look out for a finely judged cameo by Michael Gough in a flashback set in London's Rotherhithe.
Cast and crew