Raoul Servais wordt internationaal geprezen voor zijn baanbrekend werk in de animatiefilm. Op indrukwekkende wijze realiseerde hij als pionier vijftien korte animatiefilms en een langspeelfilm.
In oktober 2022 komt zijn 16de kortfilm uit!
Van oorspronkelijk idee tot ontwerptekening, van story-board tot beschilderde animatie cels, tot film: alles draagt zijn persoonlijke signatuur.
Met de films 'Harpya' (Gouden Palm Cannes 1979), 'Taxandria' en 'Nachtvlinders' (een hommage aan Paul Delvaux) werd de Oostendse grondlegger van de animatiefilm wereldberoemd.
Hij won meer dan 60 internationale prijzen.
Zijn grafisch werk werd tentoongesteld in Annecy, Montréal,
New York, Los Angeles, Antwerpen, Gent, Brussel, Parijs, Valladolid, Valenciennes...
Enkele van zijn werken zijn te zien in het museum Mu.ZEE in Oostende waar ook permanent enkele van zijn kortfilms worden vertoond.
EEN NIEUWE REIZENDE TENTOONSTELLING IS BESCHIKBAAR. Contacteer ons voor info.
In samenwerking met de Koning Boudewijnstichting.
1. From the Pathé baby to the years of mindMay 10, 1940, World War II. On that day, the German Wehrmacht launched its panzer divisions in an attack on Belgium. The city of Ostend is bombed. In the tumult, a twelve-year-old boy learns bombs, flight, terror and death. In 24 hours, little Raoul loses his childish innocence and becomes an adult willingly. Raoul Servais was born in Ostend on May 1, 1928. His parents own a crystal and china shop on the ground floor of a large 18th century building in Ostend where it is said that Napoleon Bonaparte stayed overnight when he went to inspect his fortifications. The house has large cellars and a mysterious underground passage. The growing up Raoul fantasizes about it. Father Servais is more fascinated by science and technology than by the porcelain business he runs for a living. On Sunday afternoons, he shows 9.5mm films for the young Raoul with his 'Pathé Baby' projector. Charlie Chaplin, Charles Vanel and especially Felix The Cat are regular customers: a short film, a feature film… and a cartoon. In the interwar period, thousands of Spanish Republicans settled in Belgium. They join the Jews and all those others who are being hunted by fascism. At school, Raoul ends up in the 'French-speaking section': he is one of the three Flemish people in his class, where many languages are spoken. Through his association with Spanish-Basque refugees, German and Austrian Jews, Italians, children of British diplomats and even an Australian, Raoul gets a taste of the world without travelling. “These encounters with young foreigners have enriched me very much. Thanks to them, among other things, I have never been tempted by any nationalistic conviction.” Bombs and porcelain do not go well together: his parents eventually lose possessions in the bombing of Ostend and are ruined. Secondary school isn't going so well for Raoul. His distaste for mathematics earns him disastrous grades from a teacher who, in the bargain, turns out to be a collaborator. The liberation is an intense moment for a sixteen-year-old boy who had seen the specter of forced labor in Germany looming. Servais accepts a job as an assistant decorator at the Innovation department store in Ghent. He draws there and his work is appreciated. They will double his salary if he wants to stay. But he will not stay: what he wants is a solid education and a diploma.
2. From the cigar box to the Paillard BolexRaoul Servais registers at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, Decorative Art department. For the first time he feels at home in a school environment, especially thanks to the young teacher Albert Vermeiren, who is not much older than himself. “I initiated him into my plan: I wanted to make a cartoon. My decision was made.” However, Raoul knows almost nothing about the technique of cartoons. Nevertheless, together with six fellow students, he set up a 'studio' in a rented greenhouse outside Ghent. He writes the screenplay for a film and his buddies get to make the interludes! In order to pay the rent, he cuts back on the weekly allowance of his parents, who work hard to pay for their son's studies. It is still a time of rationing. By deduction, Servais tries to reconstruct the successive stages in the making of a cartoon. The drawings pile up, but something is still missing: a camera. (photo: Raoul Servais' first camera, made with a cigar box) Faced with so much persistence and realizing that this young man is so impoverished that he will soon have nothing to eat, his teacher suggests that he come and work with him and assemble a camera. The camera comes with the help of a cigar box! For example, a first movie “Ghost History” is recorded. The image quality is poor but the animation virus has settled well. In the Decorative Arts department, Servais seems to really let loose: posters, designs for murals, stained glass windows, carpets – he does it all. Shortly after graduating, he has an encounter that will determine his further life: he becomes acquainted with Maurice Boel, an Ostend painter who has switched from expressionism to abstract painting. But Boel's influence would be of a completely different nature: together they breathe new life into the Ciné-Club d'Ostende, a venerable institution founded before the war by cinematographer Henri Storck and surrealist painter Félix Labisse. Through Boel, a man with a rich culture, Raoul gets to know the 'better' film. During his military service, Servais takes advantage of his barracks in Ghent to visit Albert Vermeiren one afternoon a week. With his former teacher he tries a puppet film, which would never be finished, but the fact is significant: Private Servais uses the little freedom the army gives him for animation film, which just won't leave him alone. “I actually knew nothing about animation at all. I wanted to find out more about it, but the studios were scrupulous about what they considered to be a professional secret.” Servais then resorts to a real ruse: he poses as a journalist and proposes to some local newspapers (Het Kustblad and Zeewacht) to write an article about 'animated film in Flanders' (sic). He then goes to Ray Goossens' Animated Cartoons studio in Antwerp, the only active animation film studio at that time. But he is not allowed access to the production rooms: “We stayed in Goossens' office the whole time.” Servais, however, is not one to be discouraged. Still under the pretext of writing an article, he travels to the Gémeaux Studios in Paris, founded by Paul Grimault. He also returns disappointed: “Even the animators were not allowed access to the camera department. The various functions were kept completely separate from each other to prevent anyone from getting a total picture of the production. In an attempt to reshape his dream, Servais launches into live action amateur film, following in the footsteps of his father, who had also been an amateur film maker. In 1952 he made a small documentary, on 8mm, about his friend, the painter Boel. He then undertakes an experiment, “Parallèles”, a soundless film about the similarities between the parallel lines he sees around him, such as telegraph cables and railways. For “De Zandloper” he films people who scour the beaches in Ostend, a bit like everywhere else on the North Sea, in search of all kinds of objects that have washed ashore. (photo: 1952 – during the shooting of “De Zandloper”) These experiences make Servais dream of real cinema: for him, the transition from amateurism to professionalism is primarily a matter of format: he wants to switch from 8 to 16mm. He saw his dream in the display window of an Ostend shop: a Paillard Bolex that cost 25,000 Belgian francs at the time. As a newlywed, he decides to be frugal in order to one day acquire that coveted device. “The day when I collected the necessary money and entered the store… what an experience!” Yet he immediately adds: “I may have had a camera, but no shooting table yet!” The cinema that fascinates Servais therefore does not seem to reach out to him. Fortunately, he is preoccupied with other activities that divert his attention from animation. In 1953 he worked for several weeks with the man who at that time was not yet the 'monstre sacré' of 20th-century painting, but who already enjoyed international fame. René Magritte (1898-1967) had been commissioned by the owner of the casino in Knokke to make a panoramic fresco for the Salle du Luster. This Salle du Luster was famous for its monumental chandelier, one of the largest in Europe. Under the direction of Raymond Art, head of decoration of the casino and together with two other decorators and as many assistants, Servais was commissioned in June 1953 to transpose the eight canvases that Magritte had finished the month before into the circular space. The work in question is “Le Domaine enchanté”, which has been given the subtitle “Panorama surréaliste”. Magritte, always dressed in a neat three-piece suit, thinks highly of herself. However, Servais mustered up all his courage and made some suggestions to Magritte on technical matters and on the use of colour. The master is anything but pleased with this and Servais is sent away because he "ignored an instruction from Magritte". Through the intervention of casino director Nellens, he is included back in the team. However, the conflicted relationship with this leading Belgian surrealist would never prevent Servais from being profoundly influenced by his work. He confesses to have been fascinated by his “Modèle Rouge”, a canvas on which, against the background of a stockade, two 'feet' are depicted, which are also shoes at the same time. Throughout Magritte's oeuvre, Servais discovered surrealism and its ambiguity, which would continue to fascinate him, even if he himself continued to move steadily between expressionism and magical realism. (photo: Raoul Servais, left, and René Magritte, 3rd from right) Meanwhile the father of two children himself, Servais is looking for a more regular source of income. This came about thanks to his political commitment: first for the Young Socialists, then for the Socialist Party. He signs a “History of the Belgian Workers' Party” (predecessor of the Belgian Socialist Party), becomes a collaborator with the Ghent newspaper Vooruit, with Le Peuple (Flemish and French-language newspapers of the socialist movement) and also with Germinal, a French-language weekly of the Parti Socialiste Belge. He makes illustrations and 'cartoons', narrative pieces that just can't be called comics. Servais would also resolutely turn away from the comic: “I wasn't really interested in comics.”
3. First steps in real cinema1960 was a decisive year in the career of Raoul Servais: he was appointed as a decorative art teacher at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent (KASK for short). From then on, Servais will be able to devote himself to his big dream: the realization of the animation film he has been working on since 1957. After all, in a drawer of the stubborn Ostend there is a screenplay that he would love to film: “De Valse Noot”. But he realizes that his knowledge and the infrastructure at his disposal are insufficient for this project, partly because it requires the application of something that he has not yet mastered: sound. It must have been with a heavy heart that he therefore forgoes this scenario for the time being, but he has plenty of ideas and so he devotes himself to the adaptation of the old Flemish folk song “Het Loze Vissertje”. The importance of this choice lies mainly in the fact that there is a 'finished sound track', and the film will serve as a template in the making of "Harbour Lights". It would take Servais three years to realize “Harbour Lights”, for which he called on his friend Jean Decock, a sound specialist, and on friends, pupils and his wife. He took care of the entire animation and backgrounds himself. The film tells the story of a small lantern being laughed at by the big lanterns. However, he gains everyone's respect after coming to the rescue of a malfunctioning lighthouse. In this film, Servais shows a natural insight into the extent to which animation can show things that are impossible with live action: the heroes of his film are lanterns, a lighthouse and above all the light, which is used as a narrative and dramatic component. (copyright Steven Decroos) The film is ready just in time for the National Festival of Belgian Film in Antwerp. To Servais' great surprise, he receives the First Prize for animation. Well, there weren't many films in competition, but besides Ray Goossens there were still other 'professionals' among the contenders and Servais was actually just as happy about the motivation of the jury, who praised the film for the originality of the graphics. style, as well as the award itself. With the money from the Antwerp prize, Servais can see things a little bigger. He therefore makes a decision that will not be without consequences: he who a few years before had dreamed of the 16mm Paillard Bolex in the Ostend store, now decides to shoot his next film on 35mm, the real cinema format! This decision shows courage. For this little teacher from the province, Sunday film maker and self-taught animation, born in a country where filmmaking is a rare occupation and where the 'greats' invariably move to Paris, such a decision is more drastic than one might think. Servais contacts a Brussels cameraman, Jean Rens, who sells him a 1928 Debrie camera. Adrien Seynaeve converts it for frame-by-frame recording.
4. The first dodge in live actionAlthough Servais has apparently launched himself in the animation film, he still continues to shoot live action. While working on Harbor Lights and De Valse Noot, he makes Detour November (1962), a "Sunday film" as he calls it, made with some friends in a junkyard. “It was quite nice because we could see the result much faster”. The film dreamily tells of a man's pilgrimage to the junkyard where his car is rusting. He meets a beautiful young blonde at the wheel of a sports car, but she turns out to be a chimera and turns into a grinning mask. Before that, Servais shot “La Saison des Sirènes”, a live action film on 16mm that was never finished and of which all the material has unfortunately been lost. The theme foreshadows “Sirène”, but also, and above all, “Operation X-70”. The subject matter of the film once again illustrates how patient and determined Servais keeps several projects warm at the same time, sometimes over long periods, even years before carrying them out.
5. The movies (biographical approach)PORT LIGHTS (1960) see chapter: First steps in real cinema DIRECTION NOVEMBER (1962) see chapter: The first dodge in live action THE FALSE NUT (1963) “The False Nut” takes two years to complete. The film is entered for the Antwerp Festival and wins the First Prize. With this film, Servais takes a decisive step in professional film production: the prize he won for "Harbour Lights" enabled him to buy the Debrie and make the switch to 35 mm film. For the first time, he receives an assignment in the profession he loves: Jos Van Liempt contacts him to make the animated credits for the TV program "De drieklaphoeden" for the Belgian - Flemish-speaking - Television. At the same time, he gathers a small crew and mainly makes a really synchronized film, including sound, music and voice-off. With “De Valse Noot" he launches a series of small characters: anti-heroes, small people who are excluded from society, power, the world. This film is about a busker who operates a barrel organ. The graphics are quite conventional, compared to with the highly stylized backgrounds, which he strewn with quotes and collages. It is clear that the cell technique does not give Servais any real satisfaction. He is therefore dissatisfied and will try other things, in which again and again the convergence of the drawn image and the real world It is the beginning of an ever-increasing urge to combine realistic images with drawn animation. The latter takes shape in a banknote, illuminated billboards, newspaper clippings, backgrounds of raw material and, for the first time, a direct borrowing from photography: a wooden horse on a merry-go-round. The humor, which is certainly present, must convey a transparent message: by juxtaposing the little man's music box with borrowings from the real world (the jukebox, the dollar, the "atomic girl" billboard), Servais the consumer society and its exclusively material values, rather than draw a contrast between "ancient" and "modern" We are five years away from May 1968. The film was awarded in Antwerp and praised by the critics. Maria Rosseels wrote her review in De Standaard under the title: “The Correct Valse Noot”. CHROMOPHOBIA (1965) A little later, Servais receives an invitation from the Ministry of National Education to come to Brussels with his two films. After the performance, head of department Paul Louyet is so enthusiastic that he orders a short animation film from Servais on the spot. When asked what the film should be about, he promptly gets the answer: “You have carte blanche”. Servais is surprised and insists, but Louyet replies: “You do whatever you want, as long as it is a creation, not an order”. With a budget of 500,000 BF in his pocket and his head in the clouds, Servais steps out of the office… Thus, “Chromophobia” kicks off in a kind of creative euphoria that can be felt throughout the film. The fact is simple: an army of small, identical, angular soldiers is fighting everything that has color. An attack on the world of Servais himself, an allegory of society, consisting of stylized Flemish cities, horse mills, Jan Klaassens and little girls with balloons. A small character, definitely reminiscent of Tijl Uilenspiegel, stops the horrible mechanism. Although the army of chromophobes is declared the winner, the regime that was instituted begins to waver as the color peacefully and gradually reclaims its rights in an apotheosis of flowers that herald the psychedelic years. “Chromophobia” is the most 'readable' film in Servais' oeuvre: after this film he seems to have released himself from the burden of a constraint he had imposed on himself and he gives free rein to poetry and a much less explicit inspiration, retreating to subjects that are more personal reflections on the nature of the medium: animation, which fascinates him to the highest degree. The film, immediately recognized for its innovative character, has won a dozen awards, including the prestigious 'Primo Premio' at the 1966 Venice International Film Festival. Servais, who has been so intelligent and humble as to wait until he has created “Chromophobia” before submitting his films to international competitions, immediately lands at the forefront of the international animation film scene. SIREN (1968) After the beat-up story of “Chromophobia”, “Sirene” seems to be a more poetic film, although here too links are made between the story and society and its flaws. We are in a harbor, a sad harbor where a sailboat is languishing. The only one present is a small fisherman, who only catches fish bones in his nets; the whole city, with its cranes and ship's rope, resembles a pile of nets and fish bones, carcasses of an industrial world in decline. At the bow of the ship is a whistling shipmate, one of those nice artists with whom Servais adorns his films. He tries to seduce a siren, or more accurately, its reflection. Her silhouette appears in strangely shiny waves, almost television waves – the skeleton of an image. In an almost Hitchcockian metaphor, the three-masted sails when the siren appears, but the sails disappear when the dinosaur cranes grab her and throw her onto the quay… Servais says this film was a challenge for him and that it was the result of a desire to make something different from the other films. “Sirene” confused the critics and it also received fewer awards than “Chromophobia” – it was “only” seven… Yet this film goes further than the previous one in many ways. By the way, “Sirene” opens many doors for Servais in Asia and in the United States, and especially in Iran, where he enjoyed a success that Servais himself calls “colossal”. He was received by Empress Farah Dibah, who even asked him to start an animation film school, an offer he politely declined. He did, however, bring Nouredin Zarrinkhelk from Iran to study at the KASK. More important than this anecdote, however, is that the enthusiasm from Iran shows that Servais' first films also appeal to non-European cultures: their visual language and the absence of idioms give them a universal power. GOLDFRAME (1969) For his next short film, Servais leaves the world of silence for the time being, and delivers a film in which dialogue plays a crucial role. It is also the first film that can be said to remove all ambiguity regarding its target audience: where the previous films could still be presented somewhat as children's films, "Goldframe" is resolutely a film for adults. Everything starts with the ringing of a telephone. We overhear a conversation between Hollywood movie mogul Jason Goldframe, hidden behind his desk, and a man named Ted, whom we never get to see. Goldframe wants Ted to finish his film, the first shot on 270mm (!), “against the first…”, but that's all we hear. The tone is set: Mister Goldframe is a man who likes to give orders and who is not used to being contradicted. Goldframe wants to be first in everything – so he also wants to outrun his own shadow. A game he inevitably loses… It is his shortest film, shot in black and white because, as he himself explains, he did not have enough money to pay for color – an explanation typical of the filmmaker's sincerity and modesty. At every stage of his career, Servais, like so many others, had to be guided in his choices by material circumstances. It usually ends well, because he knows how to make a virtue of necessity. This personal quality has undoubtedly largely determined his artistic success. Although the film is received positively almost everywhere and although it wins a number of important prizes (it was selected for Cannes), it still provokes completely unexpected reactions here and there. “I had chosen the name 'Goldframe' by analogy with 'Goldfinger' and did not envision a caricature of a specific individual. Some, however, suspected me of anti-Semitism. In Los Angeles, I was told, the film was poorly received for that reason.” It is not the first time that Servais, the citizen of the world, has become the subject of erroneous and patriotic interpretations. At the time, some had seen in “Chromophobia” an indictment of the Stalinist dictatorship, while others had seen fascism denounced. They were both right, but each recovered Servais according to his own ideology. TO SPEAK OR NOT TO SPEAK (1970) Language takes center stage in another animated film, finished two years later, and eloquently titled “To Speak Or Not To Speak”. “I wanted to make something related to the manipulation of the individual, which exists in an aggressively capitalist world of money as well as in a fascist, militaristic world, where people are prepared for war. An individual who produces colored speech bubbles – it amazes you first and then you like it, you start using it and turning it into merchandise.” Yet – and it should be emphasized – this commitment does not prevent “To Speak Or Not To Speak” from being one of Servais' funniest films. OPERATION X-70 (1971) In the early 1970s, the United States intensified its offensive against North Vietnam. Hanoi is experiencing the heaviest bombing in history. These 'air strikes' shock American and European public opinion, in which the memory of the Second World War is still very much alive. The war in Vietnam, the first mediatized war, is seen in shocking images during television news, but also in photos from the major news agencies. Needless to say, Servais is deeply shocked. The press also speaks of the massive defoliation and use by the US military of nerve agents. Servais needed to see nothing more to embark on a project whose title sounds like a military code name: “Operation X-70”. This time we get the story of an unexpected invasion of a country called 'Nebelux'. A mighty nation tests a new gas of war that doesn't kill, injure or suffocate, but rather stun and swoon its victims. Some of these X-70 gas bombs are accidentally dropped on Nebelux and cause a mutation in the population of this charming country. A special commando is sent to the scene to investigate the effect of this bombing raid on Western nationals. Enchanted by the etchings of Marc Ampe, one of his former pupils, Servais proposes them to design the backgrounds and characters of the film. Ampe performs the main scenes without sketches, directly on the zinc plates. The sets are thus monochrome etchings, worked in aquatint, which gives them a grainy character, and they play with shades of gray as no cartoon had ever done before. The film, which is not very animated, does not leave much of the image that one can have of a conventional animation film. The theme is resolutely mature, the tone is 'chilly, documentary', the off-screen voice 'clinical' and all contribute to the impression that there is a world of difference between “Operation X-70” and that other anti-militarist film that was once the basis of Servais' oeuvre: “Chromophobia”. “Operation X-70”, an atypical and uncartoon-like work, will become one of the highlights of his career for Servais: the film simultaneously wins the 'Prix Spécial du Jury' at the Cannes Film Festival in 1972 and the First Prize at the Zagreb International Animation Film Festival. PEGASUS (1973) Servais discovered in the hinterland of Ostend, in the polders that are so typical of the Belgian coast, a dilapidated farm that he bought and converted into a country house. There he meets a neighbour, an impoverished farmer who seems to still be living in the old days. “While so many others had enriched themselves on the black market during the war, this man, who was also a patriot, had only one wealth: his horse. He walked it every night like one walks a dog. He had no tractor and lived in an archaic farm.” Servais also knew a farrier in his family who had to give up his trade. Servais himself is past forty when he makes this sad statement: “All these people had lost their raison d'être.” These people now would be the catalyst for “Pegasus”, the story of an old farrier who has been completely outpaced by technology. He revolts in his own absurd and unreal way by making metal horses with his own hands, large static idols in steel plate, which little by little take over the image. For “Pegasus”, Servais takes up the thread of one of his old passions: expressionism. Servais makes the logical consideration that a visual form that is close to the aesthetics of Flemish expressionism would be the most suitable for this given. “Pegasus” garnered less praise than its predecessors, but marks a turning point in Servais' career. It is his last 'cartoon'. If we now look back at the films Servais has made up to that point, we realize how in just over 13 years he has made nine completely different films, each in a different style, with different techniques, sometimes diametrically opposed, sometimes in the line of other artists, mostly painter friends, which elicited the following comment from a critic at the time: “We could say that every film by Servais is not only an anti-Disney film, but also an anti-Servais film, in so far as he refuses to repeat itself.” THE SONG OF HALEWYN (1976) On behalf of the Belgian Luna Films and the Italian Corona Cinematografica, Servais is making a 13-minute episode that should be part of a European series about stories and legends of the Old Continent. This commissioned film, which should not be treated in the same way as the other films, will soon consume its time and energy for two years. “The Song of Halewyn” offers him the opportunity to try a technique that is different from that of the cartoon: the technique of cut-outs on magnetic plate. The story, a very slimmed-down version of what the oral tradition had made it, was supposed to be part of a prestigious television project. However, under pressure from the Italian producer, he was forced to replace the most 'bloody' shots with more 'acceptable' elements. HARPYA (1979) Six years will pass between the completion of “Pegasus” and that of “Harpya”. While the animation films by Servais have followed each other according to a steady rhythm, the preparation of this new work seems to take an exceptionally long time. There are several reasons for this. Servais, who had set up an animation department at the Ghent Academy, has to take on more and more responsibilities. In addition, he has accepted to teach at the Institut Supérieur de la Cambre in Brussels. The pedagogical work is burdened by administrative and legal obligations, of which it is a euphemism to say that Servais did not feel well. In addition, the success of his films has earned him the status of cultural ambassador for Flanders and Belgium. He is invited to juries, conferences and begins to become a public figure. Servais speaks three languages (Dutch, French and English) and that makes him a popular spokesperson, both in Flanders and in the surrounding countries. He rarely declines an invitation as he loves to support and defend the animated film he holds dear on all occasions, and he does so in the four corners of the world. This is the other side of Servais: the amiable and sensitive diplomat, who is always ready for contacts and encounters. When “Harpya” is finally shown, he shocks everyone who knows Servais a little. It is a beneficial shock, because the film wins the Golden Palm at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival. Done with the beautiful, poetic stories, done with the transparent parables that drip with commitment. “Harpya” is a “slap in the face”. Two characters come face to face: a belle époque-style bourgeoisie with a mustache, flat straw hat and striped suit, and a mythological character, a harpy who takes the bread from his mouth and then partially eats it until only one hull remains. Where has the lovely siren gone…? This mercilessly rhythmic thriller, permeated with wry humour, softened here and there by a few details such as the chip shop and other nods to typical Belgian phenomena, gives us the feeling that Servais is unconsciously settling some personal scores, especially with regard to the weak sex. “I like women very much, but not the dominant type, as I generally don't like dominant people.” In order to emphasize that this film heralds the end of any intention to provide social criticism, he broaches the theme of authority and dominance – a theme that can be found in all his films, but which takes its most extreme form in “Harpya”. . TAXANDRIA (1994) After “Harpya”, another project caught Servais' imagination. We know of his experiences with Magritte and his admiration for Surrealism in general, but the painter who has fascinated him most for a long time is Paul Delvaux (1897-1994), who, moreover, lived, like himself, on the coast, in Saint Idesbald. Its dreamy ghost towns, populated by pale naked women, absent-minded scholars and neatly dressed orphaned men, its stations without travelers and trains without destinations — it seems they were made to attract Servais' attention. Servais devises a first draft of a screenplay, which is clearly intended for a full-length film, certainly not a short film. As early as 1983, a thick storyboard tells the story of a country called 'Taxandria' (the name actually exists: it was a province in Gallic Belgium). It is of course an imaginary country, such as the 'Nebelux' in "Operation X-70", one of those anti-Utopias that are of all times in literature. A totalitarian regime has banned the notion of time. Watches have been confiscated and cameras are illegal, as they bear witness to a bygone moment. A theme that suits Servais very much: that of a force that is suppressed by a power that wants to rob the individual of his identity and that must be transformed by all means in function of a completely artificial world. Since there were no producers of full-length animation films in Belgium at that time, Servais is looking for a feature film producer with a reputation for realizing unusual projects: Pierre Drouot and his Iblis Films. Drouot likes the idea that Servais wants to make a full-length film, but he is not very enthusiastic about Delvaux's 'participation'. “On the other hand, I must admit that I also felt that the use of his paintings could constitute a handicap,” Servais admits later. “After all, Delvaux's oeuvre functions at eye level. There is no upward or downward perspective. Everything is very 'horizontal' and Delvaux's global iconography turned out to be inadequate. We should have reinvented Delvaux.” The production of “Taxandria” will therefore quickly move in a different direction. It will be the beginning of a long series of revisions to even turns of one hundred and eighty degrees. Dany Geys, one of Drouot's collaborators, launches the idea of associating Servais' world with that of a cartoonist who achieved a remarkable breakthrough: François Schuiten. At the suggestion of Benoît Peeters, his scriptwriter and loyal collaborator, Schuiten's work is seen as a whole of imagined, utopian cities, executed in architectural detail. “I immediately understood that he had the sensibility I was looking for for this film. He would become my closest collaborator and often my only ally in the battles to come.” Time passes by revisions and changes to the scenario and numerous interventions and interventions. At the same time, the project continues to grow. The technical setbacks pile up and finally, after 15 years of work and costs, the cash register is empty. The project is even about to be stopped. An ultimate reworking of the scenario provides a large number of live action scenes, and a number of screenwriters including Servais himself are commissioned to work out additional passages in order to (try to) make the already finished parts fit together seamlessly. The final film disappoints. There had been so much talk about the film that the expectations of Servais' admirers could not be fulfilled. “It's not an animated film,” Servais would say in a paraphrase of Magritte. A diplomatic way of making it clear that it is not a Servais film at all. The film does poorly at the box office, but is still shown to great acclaim at some festivals specializing in the fantastic film, such as Porto and Rome, where it takes the top prizes. NIGHT BUTTERFLIES (1998) Traditional animation filmmaker Servais may have felt liberated after “Taxandria”. His new short film “Nachtvlinders” is being set up quickly and the preparation will take a year and a half. Servais is not there to let the man fall for an idea if it is dear to him. He thus returns to the world of painter Paul Delvaux and very scrupulously transfers some canvases to the film image, but transforms them according to his own objectives. We are again close to “Harpya”: the same atmosphere of derailed mythology, a world in which the difficult relationships between the characters are labeled as incommunicable. A more subtle fear, however, seems to have replaced the feverish tension of “Harpya”: “Moths of the Night” starts from a strange sense of indefinable waiting and is in that respect a striking tribute to Delvaux's oeuvre. Thus, filmmaker-painter Servais never seems to have come closer to his goal. To put it in his own words: “…one could have created more interesting passageways between the visual arts and the animation film, but they have never or almost never been used (…) I ventured into that precarious zone, this kind of no man's land between live cinema and painting, where there is so much to discover…”. After “Nachtvlinders”, which received the “Grand Prix” and the “Prize of International Film Criticism” at the Annecy Festival 1998, a page seems to have turned. The old connection with Delvaux's work has finally taken shape and the usefulness of Servaisgraphy is now seen for what it is worth: a technique with a character all of its own. ATRAKSION (2001) Under the spell of experiment, Raoul Servais succeeds in 'not repeating' in himself with “Atraksion”. The film will be realized in black and white, this time not because of a lack of money, but perhaps as an unconscious cover to the color exaltation of “Night butterflies”. The reason is the black-and-white striped tunics of the prisoners (captured of what? Of an inhuman society? Or of themselves?) who, chained by hands and feet, make their way through the empty and desolate sets to an indeterminate point of light in their to exist. The film is a parable in which Servais formulates his hope for a better future for humanity, but also indicates that humanity will then have to take care of that itself. Servais also says about “Atraksion” that it is “not an animation film”, and rightly so because there is no animation process involved. The film is a very successful synthesis of live action and graphic decors, a process for which Servais now uses computer-controlled image processing. With this film, Servais not only accepts the inevitability of the technical aids of the digital age, but in his inimitable way he also immediately uses technology in a completely personal way. The film is awarded the Special Prize of the Jury in Valladolid, and with a Special Mention in the UIP Competition European Film Academy in Ghent. WINTER DAYS (2003) As part of the long compilation film “Winter Days” (Fuyo no hi), Raoul Servais creates an animation film of almost one minute, based on a verse of a poem by the 17th-century Japanese master Matsuo Basho. 35 renowned animators are involved in this project. The film, supervised by Kihachiro Kawamoto, was completed in 2003. TANK (2015) Despite his age, Raoul Servais has no intention of resting on his laurels. For several years, he has been developing three different projects related to the First World War, a historical fact that has been in the spotlight again from 2014 on the occasion of the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War. Servais' most ambitious WWI project, "Pigeons" (subtitle: "myths and legends from the great war") is about paranormal events and unexplained sightings of frontline soldiers. The screenplay was originally intended for a full-length feature film, but that plan never got off the ground. Later on, a four-part TV film, to be realized in international co-production, is being considered. No animation, just ordinary film images, but with many digital edits to accurately depict the hallucinations of the front soldiers. At the end of 2014, under the impulse of producer Willem Thijssen (CinéTé) and in collaboration with Raoul Servais, an exhibition will be devoted to the stalled but not yet given project “Duiven” in Poperinge, West Flanders, with storyboards, drawings, watercolors and animatics.< /p> The animation filmmaker can eventually realize another WWI project: “Tank”. The 6'20” short film will have its world premiere on October 13, 2015 on the opening night of the 42nd Film Fest Gent. Raoul Servais was inspired by the poignant poem “Le Tank” written by the French pacifist poet Pierre Jean Jouve about the new war machine that was deployed by the British against the Germans on 15 September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme in WWI. He calls his film "a free interpretation of that first tank attack, describing the traumatic experience for both the trench soldiers and the tank crew". The war heroes he presents are ordinary boys like Otto who writes letters to the beloved in the heimat and Johny who cherishes a photo of the girl waiting for him in England. The various facts from the 1914-18 war, told in black-and-white drawings, are colored blood red at the end... DER LANGE KERL (2021) Der Lange Kerl" is the 16th short film by Raoul Servais. The story (like Raoul's previous work "Tank" from 2015) takes place on the battlefield during the First World War where a wounded Frenchman and a young German soldier of extraordinary size confront each other. The approximately 15-minute film uses both ordinary film recordings that are digitally edited afterwards, as well as animation film. Raoul Servais conceived the story, wrote the screenplay and drew the storyboard. Due to his age, the 93-year-old animator worked with Rudy Pinceel, his co-director, to make the film. “I direct from a distance, Rudy is the director on site,” says Servais. Both know each other well because Rudy Pinceel followed Raoul with the camera for three years for his full-length documentary “SERVAIS” (2018). The film is both a parody of Prussian militarism and a pacifist and humanist message. The internationally renowned composer and conductor Dirk Brossé, not at his best when it comes to film music, wrote the music for this short film. “This portrait of a young soldier condemned by his large stature to become a nightmare terror in the trenches of the First World War is a kind of inverted reflection of Raoul Servais, a 93-year-old young man who used his poetic art to expose oppression and violence.” (Alain Lorfèvre - La Libre Belgique 4/10/2021)
6. Biographical FactsRaoul Servais (Ostend, 1 May 1928) studied applied arts at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) in Ghent. In June 1953, having just graduated, he was entrusted with the execution of the monumental series of paintings “Le Domaine Enchanté” by René Magritte in the Casino in Knokke. In 1963, Raoul Servais, with the support of director Geo Bontinck, founded an autonomous Animation Film department at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, the first school of its kind on the European mainland. In 1973 Raoul Servais was elected member of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Belgium. He is currently an honorary member. In 1985, Servais realized the concept for the wall decoration in the Houba-Brugmann metro station for the Brussels transport company STIB. From 1985 to 1994, Raoul Servais was general president of ASIFA (Association Internationale du Film d'Animation). He has been honorary president of ASIFA since 2010. He is co-founder of the Flemish Audiovisual Fund vzw, was vice-chairman of the Henri Storck Fund and is vice-chairman of the fund that bears his name. In 2008, Ghent University appointed Raoul Servais as Doctor Honoris Causa. He is a laureate of the Van Acker Prize (Bruges, 1975). In 2002 he was awarded the five-year culture prize of the province of West Flanders. The Flemish Parliament awarded him a gold medal of honor in 2010. He was also Cultural Ambassador of Flanders. Servais received the Espiga de Oro (Golden Spike) for his film career in Valladolid, the special prize of the jury for his entire body of work (the Hans Christian Andersen Prize) in 1975 at the fairytale film festival in Odense (Denmark) , the Norman McLaren Heritage Prize from the Canadian National Film Board, the Dragon of Dragons Lifetime Achievement Award from the Krakow Film Festival (Poland), the career award from the Hiroshima International Animation Film Festival (2010) and in 2015 the Crystal Pegasus for his oeuvre at the Poznan Animation Film Festival (Poland). Raoul Servais has received more than sixty film prizes and awards to date, including the San-Marco Lion for best animation film in Venice (1966 – "Chromophobia"), the Grand Jury Prize in Cannes (1971 – "Operation X- 70"), the Golden Palm, also in Cannes (1979 – "Harpya"), the Grand Prize of the Annecy Animation Film Festival and the Prize of International Film Criticism (1998 – "Moths of the Night"), as well as important prizes at many other festivals in Belgium and abroad: Bilbao, Tehran, Montreal, Leipzig, Moscow, Chicago, Philadelphia, Sydney, Oberhausen, Zagreb, Porto, Rome, Valladolid. Servais tributes with retrospectives of his work have been held at the Center Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Center Wallonie-Bruxelles in Paris, in Saint-Etienne, Annecy, Valladolid, Madrid, Valencia, Siena, Bursa, Istanbul, Ankara , Sousse (Tunisia), Meknès (Morocco), Montreal, Vancouver, the Museum of Modern Art and the Ziegfeld Theater in New York and Chicago. Also at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank – Hollywood, Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Hong Kong, Taishung (Taiwan), Jeonju (South Korea), Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Saint Petersburg and Poznan. Exhibitions of his graphic-cinematic oeuvre have traveled to Osaka, Annecy, Montreal, Paris, Laon, Roubaix, Tehran, Bursa, Cairo, Valladolid, São Paulo, Ghent, Ostend, Middelkerke and Bredene. Servais and the Animation Film Teaching Since Raoul Servais could not enjoy any film education and as a result, as an autodidact, he had to undertake years of searching for the secrets of animation film, he judged that the emerging generation should be spared this.In the 1960s he therefore founded the very first animation film training course in continental Europe within the framework of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) in Ghent.For eight years he also taught animation film at the École nationale supérieure des arts visuels de La Cambre (ENSAV) in Brussels. For two years he was responsible for animation film training at the Center Tertiaire de Formation in Valenciennes (FR).As a guest lecturer he was invited to the Film Faculty of the Columbia College of Art in Chicago and to Calarts (California Institute of the Arts) in Los Angeles (USA). A two-year teaching position was offered to him by Harvard University in Boston, but due to film production commitments, he was unable to accept the offer.In order to arouse interest in animation film at a very young age, he founded the youth studio Waf! in the lap of the non-profit organization Fonds Raoul Servais. Courtesy of Philippe Moins
7. Overview prizes / awardsPort Lights (1960) 1960: Grand Prix of Animation Film, National Film Festival - Antwerp The False Note (1963) 1964 : First Prize of the Animation Film, Benelux Film Festival – ’s Hertogenbosch (NL) 1964 : Grand Prix of Animation Film, National Film Festival – Antwerp Chromophobia (1965) 1966: “San Marco Lion”, First Prize for short film: International Film Festival – Venice (Italy). 1966: First Prize for Short Film “Miqueldi De Plata”: International Film Festival – Bilbao (Spain). 1966: First Prize for Short Film: International Film Festival – Tehran (Iran). 1966: Prize of the Ministry of Culture of Iran – Tehran (Iran); 1966: Film Criticism Award: International Film Festival – Tehran (Iran). 1966: First Prize: International “ILFI” Film Festival – Montreal (Canada). 1966: First Prize: International Youth Film Festival – Hyères (France). 1966: First Prize: International Film Festival of Ramat' Gan (Israel). 1966: Grand Prize for Animation Film: National Film Festival – Antwerp. 1966: First Prize: Benelux Film Festival – ’s Hertogenbosch (NL). 1966: C.I.D.A.L.C. Prize (Centre International des Arts, Littérature & Cinéma) - Paris. 1966: Preis für Volkerfreundschaft: Internationale Kurzfilmtage Leipzig (Germany). 1966: Peace Prize: International Film Festival – Moscow (Russia). Sirène (1968) 1968: “Silver Pelican”: International Animation Film Festival – Mamaia (Romania). 1969: Grand Prize for Animated Film – Tehran (Iran). 1969: Prize of the Film Criticism of Iran: International Film Festival – Tehran (Iran). 1969: “Silver Boomerang”: International Film Festival – Melbourne (Australia). 1969: “Trophy Richard Declerck”, Grand Prize: National Film Festival – Antwerp. 1969: Prize for the best color film: National Film Festival – Antwerp. 1970: “Silver Hugo”, First Prize of the Animated Film: International Film Festival – Chicago (US). 1970: First Prize: International Film Festival – Philadelphia (USA). Goldframe (1969) 1969: “Trophy Richard Declerck”, Grand Prize: National Film Festival – Antwerp. 1969: Grand Prix of Animation Film: National Film Festival – Antwerp. 1969: Prize of B.R.T.: National Film Festival – Antwerp. 1969: Prize “Meuter Titra” for the best animation film – Antwerp. 1969: Special Prize of the Jury: International Film Festival – Sydney (Australia). 1969: In Competition: International Film Festival – Cannes (France). To speak or not to speak (1970) 1971: Prize of the Audience: Internationale Kurzfilmtage – Oberhausen (Germany). 1971: Prize of the German Youth Film Library: Internationale Kurzfilmtage – Oberhausen (Germany). 1971: ASIFA Prize (Association Internationale du Film d' Animation) – Oberhausen (Germany). 1971: Special Mention: International Animation Festival – Annecy (France). 1971: Ereprijs: National Film Festival – Knokke. Operation X-70 (1971) 1972: Special Jury Prize: International Film Festival – Cannes (France). 1972: First Prize: International Animation Film Festival – Zagreb (Croatia). 1972: Speedwell: National Film Festival – Knokke. 1972: Prize of the Audience: Film International – Antwerp. Pegasus (1973) 1973: Prize of the Audience: Film International – Antwerp. 1973: In competition: Berliner Filmfestspiele – Berlin (Germany). Harpya (1979) 1979: Golden Palm: International Film Festival – Cannes (France). 1980: Chosen by international film critics as one of the fifteen best animated films of all time. 2006: In a Top 100 of the most striking short works from a hundred years of animation film, commissioned by the Annecy Festival and the film magazines Studio and Variety, drawn up by 30 international specialists, Raoul Servais is in 14th place with 'Harpya'. Taxandria (1994) 1995 : Grand Prize: International Fantastic Film Festival – Porto (Portugal). 1995: Grand Prize: International Festival of the Fantastic Film – Rome (Italy). 1995: Nomination: European Prize for Best Fantastic Film – Porto (Portugal), Sitges (Spain), Rome (Italy) and Brussels. Moths (1998) 1998: Grand Prize: International Animation Film Festival – Annecy (France). 1998: Prize of International Film Criticism (FIPRESCI)- Annecy (France). 1998: Golden Palm: Festival Mondial du Court Métrage – Huy. 1998: Award of the Walloon Government – Huy. 1998: Sabam Prize – Huy. 1999: Honorable Mention: International Short Film Festival – Drama (Greece). Atraksion (2001) 2001: Special Mention: UIP Competition European Film Academy – Ghent. 2001: Special Jury Prize: International Film Festival – Valladolid (SP). 2003: Grand Prize for the short film: Fantasporto – Porto (Portugal). 2003: Silver Méliès for Best European Fantastic Film: Fantasporto – Porto. Tank (2015) 2015: Silver Spike (Espiga de Plata), International Film Festival – Valladolid (Spain)