Eve is a stay at home mother of two who ensures the house is in tiptop shape and that dinner is promptly on the table for her working husband, Ad. When Eve has a break down at the Mother’s Day family dinner table, Ad purchases her a train ticket to enjoy France’s sun and sand with her best friend, Sonja. There she meets an alluring woman, Liliane, living freely and humbly in a commune. An attraction flourishes between them after Eve returns to home to the Netherlands and can’t stop thinking of her time with Liliane. Soon, they become romantically involved with Liliane travelling back and forth from France and that sets the stage for conflict as Ad discovers his wife’s yearning desires for Liliane to horrid and confusing for their young children not to mention also their marriage. Eve is caught in the middle between the woman she desperately wants to be with who still lives in the commune and her children she can’t deal to part from in a tug-a-war of emotions wrought by a failing marriage, society perceptions on lesbianism, and damaging court room battles for children custody.
When thinking about the history of LGBTQ+ films and the filmmakers behind them, director Nouchka van Brakel’s “A Woman Like Eve” should be at the top of any film aficionado’s list despite flying, unjustifiably, under the radar for decades as the Dutch film makes a profound statement with, at the time, unmapped gender fluidity of the 1970’s timeframe that included the women liberation movement that sought to free domesticated women from the limitations of household responsibilities, it cracked the barriers on what constitutes as healthy union between two people, and dove into the intricate internal struggles of a keystone person being pulled between two very different lives of family dynamics. Co-written alongside Judith Herzberg, the 1979 romance drama, natively titled “Een vrouw als Eva,” has a very different kind of evil than the werewolves, vampires, zombies, serial killers, and ghosts typically showcased in our reviews and that is those narrow-mindedly frighteningly submerged in antiquated traditions peered through the perspective of a feminist director in Brakel. Matthijs van Heijningen, who produced Dick Maas’s elevator-horror “The Lift” and also Brakel’s prior work on “The Debut” and later work on “The Cool Lakes of Death,” produces the Dutch tale under his indie banner, Sigma Pictures.”
“A Woman Like Eve” would not have been as provocative with thickly layered nonconformist and spirited topics without the compelling performance of the film’s two leading ladies in Monique van de Ven (Paul Verhoeven’s “Turkish Delight”) as Eve and Maria Schneider (“Last Tango in Paris” costarring Marlon Brando). Van de Ven captures a woman tormented by not only what “proper” society, society being her friends and family, tells her to be, but also distresses going against the grain of her innate guilt and nurture for her two small children during a time of emotional transition that impels her to pursue a relationship with not just any other person but another woman. That other woman being Liliane, an established outlier of what’s considered normal as a lesbian living how she wants in an outskirts commune, and while Schneider’s performance treads lightly through what should be mountains of emotions, especially in a role that has a foundation of someone been out of closet, doesn’t care what anyone thinks, and has tethered a line of security to her soul fulfillment center, Liliane still maintains as the steady constant that never wavers from who she is and what she wants. Toss in the German born and “A Bridge Too Far” actor, Peter Faber, and you can see the gunpowder burn for miles in tense and uncomfortable discourse when Eve confides into Faber’s character, Eve’s husband Ad, about her proclaimed love for another woman and then we witness Ad patronize her with what he calls an epidemic of woman independence and shrugs her true feelings like scraping foods scraps from a dinner plate and into the trash. Faber can get downright ugly with the homophobic bigotry that begins to carousel Eve’s ebb and flow of having any kind relationship with her separated husband until justice system proceedings for children custody. Marijke Merckens, Renée Soutendijk, Anna Knaup, Truus Dekker, and Mike Bendig round out as the support characters caught is the web of Eve’s love affairs and legal issues.
Feminist filmmaker Nouchka van Brakel depicts tremendous themes of a woman’s status in what could have been a universal position for women all over the globe. Seen as only housekeepers, dinner makers, and children bearers or caretakers, women were placed at a standstill after suffragists fought for the right vote at the turn of the 20th century but that fire inside them stayed lit and you can see that with Eve in the opening scenes as she’s longing and looking for something more than to be a house wife. She eventually obtains something more with love for Liliane, the second theme Brakel implements extends upon unfettering women is with lesbianism. Lesbianism is shown to bring down shame upon family, friends, and even just society in general as Eve was offered no solace from those she had a prior relationship with after coming out, a choice seen as a radical and an integration part of that women’s independence movement. Brakel wanted to explore uncharted passion between woman and woman and, in doing so, lifted the curtain on on various foremost concepts that are still…still being talked about today where inequality in the workplace through sexism and salaries still wage a battle of the sexes and homosexuality is still too taboo for even the modern day system. “A Woman Like Eve” has surely inspired and been of homage in more modern pieces, such as “Blue is the Warmest Color,” and should be exhibited more educationally on it’s abundance of relatable themes and not just be another work of unseen cult fiction but be rather a praised film of realism based on nonfiction.
To watch Eve toil in her new life is like climbing Mount Everest; it’s a long, arduous journey with challenging, sometimes spirit crushing, obstacles to overcome in order to reach the top, but once above the cloud, the tooth and nail fight for what’s finally yours and yours alone can be worth it. Unfortunately for Eve, her cumulus glass ceiling is poignant. “A Woman Like Eve” importance is shamefully overlooked and that’s why I’m grateful Cult Epics has brought Brakel’s film, for the first time, on DVD and Blu-ray in North America. Basing this review off the Blu-ray release, clocking in with a 103 minute runtime, the newly restored high definition transfer from the original 35mm print, shown in 1.66:1 aspect ratio, looks respectable from a moderately preserved transfer. An occasion scratch and some real delineation issues with night scenes factor in only little impact when the story is shot mostly in bright daylight and is well light all around with lots of natural grain. No cropping, compression artefacts, or enhancing was detected and the coloring appears very natural without any overcorrecting or mistakes in the primary or secondary hues. The new Dutch/English/French language DTS-HD master audio 2.0 renders dialogue clearly and positioned as the foremost track with a solid sync with the error-free English captioning. There’s a slight lower key hum throughout and some crackling and popping but none of those are a hinderance to the viewing. As far as bonus material, the region free, unrated release contains a 2020 interview between Brakel and film journalist Floortje Smit at the Eye Filmmuseum, a poster and still gallery, and the theatrical trailer on a dual-layered disc. The limited edition package includes new and original cover art on a reversible case sleeve. Probably seen as antiquated celluloid, I see Nouchka van Brakel’s LGBTQ proud and woman empowering film, “A Woman Like Eve,” as historical treasure dug up by Cult Epics, carefully spit-shine restored, and encapsulated forever on physical media for all to enjoy.