Synopsis: In the 1890s, Father Adolf Daens goes to Aalst, a textile town where child labor is rife, pay and working conditions are horrible, the poor have no vote, and the Catholic church backs the petite bourgeoisie in oppressing workers. He writes a few columns for the Catholic paper, and soon workers are listening and the powerful are in an uproar. He's expelled from the Catholic party, so he starts the Christian Democrats and is elected to Parliament. After Rome disciplines him, he must choose between two callings, as priest and as champion of workers. In subplots, a courageous young woman falls in love with a socialist and survives a shop foreman's rape; children die; prelates play billiards.
Director(s): Stijn Coninx
Production: Favourite Films
  Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 7 wins & 1 nomination.
138 min

Aalst, Belgium - end 19th century

Pick up those bobbins!

Put that basket away!

Watch out!

What's this?

Go on, pick it up.

Pick that up!

Work, or I don't need you.

Get out, son of a b*tch!

And you, 20 centimes fine!

I didn't do anything!

Professor Daens,

is it true that you want to leave

the college of Dendermonde?

I've had nine beautiful years,

Monseigneur. That's enough.

You've had nine years of troubles

with everybody.

Them with me, maybe.

I won't deny that.


now I want to go to Aalst.

I have a spot as a junior priest

in Drongen.

You're expected there tomorrow.

You know very well that I've had

real problems in Drongen.

and indeed, with everybody.

- I remember, because you still have.

I don't think I'm welcome there.

You can hold your own.

And you're a difficult man.

Shouldn't you consider in peace

what you actually want?

You're not happy anywhere!

You're right, Monseigneur. That's

why I'm leaving for Aalst tomorrow.

If you really need me,

you can find me there.

Please, Lord,

free us from Daens.

In the name of the father,

Son and Holy Ghost. Amen!

May St. Ursula protect our factory

in these troubled times.

Hail Mary, Mother of God.

Lord be with you,

blessed above all women

and blessed is your Son Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us, now and forever. Amen.

Go away, there! Get out!

There, there are more!

There's Nini!

Those coals are ours. Get out!

You don't need coals.

Aalst!.... Two-minute stop!

Two-minute stop.

And? Where are these socialists?

All this panic for nothing!

Well, well! Father Daens!

Adolf...What a surprise!

- Am I not welcome?

Or is Aalst yours only now?

- No, no.

But the bishop did not inform us

Where do I send this, Father?

-to my brother's, printer Daens.

Read "Forwards"!

The socialist paper!

Read "Forwards"!

The socialist paper!

Please sirs, for you it's free!

Don't hit me!

According to Belgian law, I can...

-I'm the law here

you can nothing. Back to Ghent!

Guys, dirty Lisette has potatoes.


Gee, what a potato.

-My potatoes!

There's another fat one.


Let's go, fellows. Run!

My potatoes, thieves!

Bunch of bastards!

What are you doing?

This is no cemetery or dunghill.

Why are you bringing this here?

-Throw them away at your place.

Throw it away!

I'm fed up with the child.

Look there!

Father, do you agree with him?

Dumping his corpses here.

What can I do with it?

It's not up to me to bury her.

Besides, I need my cart.

I've got work to do.

What happened?

-Frozen to death, Father. Feel it.

It's the same every day.

Farmers find them and bring them

here instead of burying them.

Does anybody know her?

Everyone knows her, Father.

Nini, with the wet cherry.

So, potato-thief, maybe you also

know where her parents are?

Yes, over there somewhere.

Around the corner, under the bar.

Whose arse is this.

Whose arse is that.

Whose arse may this well be.

But man, this is the coal bag.

That coal bag belongs to me...

Fellows, they've released a crow!

Cover your bum, your man is here!

Gust! That's a priest!

Doesn't have to look for favours

around here. Do you Father,

or are you looking for the devil?

I'm looking for Nini's parents.

-Hot Nini, with the wet cherry?


Over there, Father.

Listen, if you're here

to lecture us, don't bother!

And certainly not about that whore.

It's everyone for himself here

And our poor-box is empty.


do you know what happened to her?

Did you see her?

-She's banged up.

We know. And leave my man alone.

None of your business!


- This is the one.

Red swine, I didn't do anything.

You haven't either, did you, Jef?

She liked it.

She came to ask for it herself.


Don't let them bury her like a dog.

Buy her a coffin.

Hey, more thieves!

-Uncle Adolf!

Are those boxes for us?

-Of course! Choose, you skunks!


gee! It's been a long time!

Can I move in here?

-Run off again?

I hate priests,

the college makes me sick.

I could teach you in private

and finally pay you back.

Don't be silly. you're welcome!

Peter will be glad!

I hear you're still kind to your readers.


What a surprise!

Travelling through?

-No, I'm staying!

Does your bishop allow this?

Here, competition.

You trust yourself on the streets

with such a newspaper?

Where did you get it?

A socialist's gift at the station.

Any room for me on the front page?

- If you want...


Did you read this, Borremans?

A catholic paper against our ideas

agitating the workers against us.

You must talk about it to Woeste.

-You do it. There he is.

Have you read it Mr. Chairman?

-I'm aware, my friends.

I will bring reason to

that little printer.

It's going too far.

Aalst is getting more dangerous by the day.

They insult and loot us

and threaten our women.

They terrorise the country

and this newspaper.

Don't exaggerate, Druw.

-Do I?

Let's not waste our time.

That paper I can handle.

These workers shouldn't bite the

hands that feed them.

The church should take care of that.

As an employer you take care of

their of salvation too.

You don't know these workers.

They have the same worries

as us directors.

How many factories will

survive the crisis in Aalst?

If the government won't subsidize

me, I will close down.

There will be no subvention.

-But you promised...

My colleagues in the government

don't want state intervention.

The recommend the English method.

Limit production costs to

enable competition.

Lower the wages?

That's impossible.

It's not, I pay them 1.60 franc

for 14 hours work.

Cumont pays 2 franc for 11 hours.

And he's still complaining,

he's going to go down.

If we all draw the line, they

even will accept 1.40 franc.

While a loaf of bread costs 60 centimes

and a bag of coal 1,50?

Pay them with potatoes.

Why not?

The money goes to booze anyway.

They won't survive...

They also won't survive

if the factories closes

Poverty is not the problem.

-I agree with that.

But to me it's dangerous

to lower the wages now.

People are already upset.

We could implement the Scottish system.

Three workers to four machines.

And if we only let the women work

we safe half.

You can't mean that?

It's an interesting idea.

-The Scots still do it as well.

Three female worker to four machines.

Are there not enough accidents


How many fatal accidents have you got?

And you, Antoine? And you lot?

Safe us your demagogy.

In every war there will be casualties.

You are monsters. The lot of you.

We liberals stand up for our workers

who live in total poverty.

No aid from you and Aalst loses

its industry and you your constituents.

I'm sorry to interrupt,

Mr. Woeste and you gentlemen...

...but now it's time

to relax.

What a charming thought.

-Don't hide, Junior.

Say hello to Mr. Woeste.

Hello, Junior.

Work hard and you be as big and

important as your dad.

Who is teaching you?

We are looking, They have recommend

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Fernand Auwera

Ferdinand Van der Auwera (26 November 1929 in Antwerp - 27 October 2015), pseudonym Fernand Auwera is a Belgian writer. His fragile health during his youth and its impact on his life (solitude), had an effect on his first literary work. He started his career as a civil servant and worked for the journal Volkskrant and the literary magazine Dietsche Warande en Belfort. He made his literary debut with the psychological novel De weddenschap (E: The bet) in (1963). Later he made the statement that he wrote as a therapy, such as with Zelfportret met gesloten ogen (E: Self-portrait with closed eyes) (1973) and Uit het raam springen moet als nutteloos worden beschouwd (E: Jumping out of the window must be considered useless) (1983), which was made into a movie Springen. In Schrijven of schieten (E: Writing or shooting) (1969) and Geen daden maar woorden (E: No deeds but words) (1970), he published several interviews with fellow writers. In addition he wrote some books for children and literary essays. He contributed to the screenplays of the movies De Witte van Sichem (1980) after Ernest Claes and Lijmen/Het Been (2000) after Willem Elsschot. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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