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Bullhead 2011

Bullhead | Rundskop | Tête De Boeuf

Bullhead-Rundskop-Tete De Boeuf

As film industry reviewers, we say Bullhead is one of our non-favorite movies. Please VOTE!

Bullhead is favorite or unfavorite?

My whole life I've known nothing but these beasts. I've always felt just like these bulls here, never knowing what it's like to protect someone. Calves, a herd, like a wife, children... Really having to protect them, cos you have to... cos it's in your nature.

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About the Bullhead 💬

''Sometimes in a man's life stuff happens that makes everyone go quiet. So quiet that no one even dares talk about it. Not to anyone, not even to themselves. Not in their head and not out loud. Not a fucking word. Cos everything has somehow got stuck. There, deep in the fields, under the trees and the leaves, year after year. Then, suddenly it all comes back. Just like that, from one day to the next. No matter how long ago it was, there will always be someone to bring it all back. Because no matter what you do or think, one thing is for sure. You're always fucked. Now, tomorrow, next week or next year, until the end of time. Fucked.''

  • Limburg, Belgium.

The young Limburg cattle farmer Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts) is approached by an unscrupulous veterinarian to make a shady deal with a notorious West-Flemish beef trader. But the assassination of a federal policeman, and an unexpected confrontation with a mysterious secret from Jacky's past, set in motion a chain of events with far-reaching consequences.

BULLHEAD is a crime drama set in the world of hormone smugglers where tough farmers intimidate and bribe for illegal but profitable cattle trade. BULLHEAD is Roskam's first feature.


Early on in Michaël R. Roskam's debut feature BULLHEAD, there is a shot of the main character Jacky sitting naked on the edge of a bath in the near dark. It's an image eerily reminiscent of paintings by Lucian Freud or Francis Bacon. It is often said of these artists that they depict the human body as if it is a lump of flesh in an abattoir. In BULLHEAD, set in the world of hormone smuggling, the slaughterhouse isn't just a metaphor. The world that Jacky inhabits is one in which cattle are injected with drugs that make them grow quicker so that they can be killed quicker and more profitably.

In the late 1990s, a vet was murdered in Belgium because he pried too closely into what was happening in the slaughterhouses. He had stumbled on a scheme to fatten livestock artificially - and illegally. The farmers behind it intimidated and bribed anyone in a position to reveal what they were doing. The police were slow to respond. After all, you don't expect the agricultural world to be a hotbed of Mafia corruption. When the vet had exposed the farmers, they had had to destroy the bulls which had been fattened. They were furious at losing thousands of Euros. That's why the vet was killed. Roskam studied the case in great detail. No, BULLHEAD isn't based directly on what happened. This is fiction, after all. However, he freely acknowledges that this notorious case was one of the inspirations for his movie. 'For me, BULLHEAD is like a tragedy,' the writer-director muses. 'It's a tragic tale of destiny and innocence. I've always been fascinated by the American gangster films. I love them! I wanted to do one in my own way, on my own soil, with my own background.'

Roskam realized it would be utterly implausible to make a Godfather style gangster pic in Belgium. 'It doesn't really exist,' he says of the type of brooding, Italian-American mafia bosses played by Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. Of course, Flanders has crime. By honing in on the close-knit world of the 'hormone mafia', he hoped to find a Flemish equivalent to the Corleones and their sidekicks.

BULLHEAD has a conventional thriller narrative. There are cops, informers and plenty of heavies. However, this is as much a psychological character study as it is a gangster pic. Jacky has been deeply traumatized in childhood. As an adult, he has transformed himself into a bulky, muscle-bound and very imposing figure. No one messes with him. At the same time, Roskam insists, the character has an innocence and even an idealism about him.

As a youngster, Roskam spent a few months working on a farm in the area where the film is set. He knew the milieu inside out. It's a tough and unforgiving world. 'But there are different social levels,' he remembers. He was lucky enough to be employed by 'gentleman farmers' who were prepared to hire student workers.

There are some strange rituals in rural Flanders. When men are still unmarried in their 30s, they are often relentlessly mocked. 'It's typical that when you are 30 and you are single, your friends will take one of the worst pictures of you they can find. They'll copy it, call you an ox, and distribute leaflets and posters which say that you are treating everybody to beer in the local pub. You have to go through with it.'

This is a very intense piece of filmmaking but it does have a comic undertow. Two hapless Wallonian mechanics get caught up in the hormone mafia. These French-speakers are bewildered and appalled by the behavior of their Flemish counterparts. 'You know, in The Hidden Fortress by Kurosawa, you have two low-lives... or actually, it's like R2D2 and C3PO in Star Wars. They also help push the plot. Because of their stupidity, they actually create the circumstances that lead to the downfall of the main characters.'

Geoffrey Macnab for Flanders I magazine, February 2011.

Bullhead Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Michaël R. Roskam

Writing Credits

Michaël R. Roskam


Matthias Schoenaerts

Kris Cuppens

Sofie Sente

Kristof Renson

Jean-Marie LeSuisse

Jeroen Perceval

Hein van der Heijden

Jeanne Dandoy

Juda Goslinga

Renaud Rutten

Marie-Rose Roland

Barbara Sarafian

Tibo Vandenborre

Frank Lammers

Sam Louwyck

Stefaan Degand

Erico Salamone

Philippe Grand'Henry


Gaël Maleux

Jurgen Rogiers

Ludmilla Klejnak

Mike Reus

Robin Valvekens

Baudouin Wolwertz

Jeanne Remy

David Murgia

Armand Naessens

Music by

Raf Keunen

Cinematography by

Nicolas Karakatsanis

Category: Oscars, Oscar Academy Award Nominee

Genres: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Countries: Belgium, Netherlands

Bullhead Official Trailer

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