Nicole van Goethem (1941-2000) is a draughtswoman, cartoonist and animator. In 1987 she wins the first and only Belgian Oscar with her debut film Een Griekse Tragedie (A Greek Tragedy). van Goethem participates in several animated film productions in the seventies and eighties before making three short animated films: A Greek Tragedy (1985), Vol van Gratie (1987) and L.A.T. (released posthumously in 2002). She wins prizes with Een Griekse Tragedie (A Greek Tragedy, 1985) and makes a name for herself at home and abroad. She works on commission and provides socially critical but often humorous illustrations for numerous books, magazines and advertising campaigns. Nicole van Goethem has a preference for initiatives based on humanistic ideas and explores themes and issues such as human rights, the pension system and the role of women in society.


It was while Nicole was working on Picha's The Missing Link, that she decided to write her own screenplays for the first time. The upshot is that the three screenplays at the basis of her three arthouse films (A Greek Tragedy, Vol van Gratie, and L.A.T.) had already been drafted as early as 1977. However, it would be many years before Nicole would continue working on these screenplays. That was because between 1977 and 1980, van Goethem was forced to return to the Antwerp nightlife to make a living. Around 1980, she was unable to work for a spell due to an accident. During this time, Nicole followed the advice of friends and continued to work on screenplay for A Greek Tragedy, submitting it to the film committee for approval in 1980.

Nicole van Goethem began working on A Greek Tragedy, the first short animated film of her trilogy, in the middle of 1983. A team of twelve worked on the production at her Ercola studio in Wolstraat for a year and a half, including her niece, Rudi Renson, and Jan Sanctorum. A Greek Tragedy was comprised of 2,500 cels in total. The six-minute, ten-second animated film about three caryatids and their self-liberation from their eternal labour propping up a temple was completed in January 1985.

The positive impact of the various prizes van Goethem was showered with between 1985 and 1987 is evident from the variety of commissions she started to rake in at the time. For example, as of 1986 she began illustrating the book Onze Sociale Zekerheid [Our Social Security] (1989) authored by the then University of Antwerp Rector, Josse Van Steenberge. That commission was the first of a host of collaborations between van Goethem and Van Steenberge. Not only did she illustrate books, but she also created illustrations for De Morgen in the late 1980s. Her time wasn’t just occupied as an illustrator during this period; she also worked on several film projects such as Human Rights Article 13, The Spectator (1986 to ca. 1990), a film commissioned by the Volksverzekering (DVV), and the unfinished Castagnetten [Castanets].


(c)Nicole Van Goethem & Cinété, 1986

“Three caryatids, statues of women, have supported the tympanum (the triangular top) of their temple for centuries. Weather and wind, pollution, archaeologists and tourism have contributed to the fact that what remains of the monument is in dire condition. We see the caryatids awaken and begin their "working day". The drooping women with drooping breasts carry their stone load as best they can. One of the women falls from her pedestal when an umbrella carried by the wind smashes against her. With the help of the two others, she can take her place again and the damage is limited. However, things go completely wrong when a pickaxe (from uncharted archaeological activity) gets caught in the cloth of the middle caryatid. Two of the three women fall from their pedestals, the tympanum falls into pieces of grit. The third remains upright for some time with a last block of stone, but then stops. She drops her stone and steps down. Meanwhile, we see the first two women dancing through the landscape to courtly minuet music. The third follows.”

And Nicole adds: (2) “The end of the temple also signifies the beginning of the life of the three statues in freedom, which they have had to wait so long for. They dance to a new future. ”

Screenplay and Direction: Nicole van Goethem

Production: Willem Thijssen and

Animation: Jan Sanctorum

Music: Rudi Renson, Luk Redig and Jan Boonen

Vocals: Anne Van der Vucht (daughter of Monique, Nicole's dearest sister.)

But what is "A Greek Tragedy" really about? Check out:


(c)Nicole Van Goethem & Cinété, 1987

The main characters are two innocent nuns. In a shop in the city (a sex shop, but they are not aware of it)…. they buy candles (actually dildos, but they don't know anything like that) and light them in the church of their monastery. The result is suffocating black smoke. The nuns go back to the shop to complain. The salesperson whispers the real position to them and gives each of them a new one. Back in the monastery, the nuns now also achieve supreme bliss on earth. Their fellow sisters soon find their way to the "candle shop".

Screenplay and Direction: Nicole van Goethem

Animation: Jan Sanctorum, Bruno Wouters and Piet De Rycker

Music: Rudi Renson, Jacques Smeets


1988 - DVV OPERA

Also in 1988 Nicole van Goethem invented the short animation film DVV Opera, commissioned by DVV (De Volksverzekering) about an insurance broker who helps crocodiles out of distress.


At the end of '88, Nicole van Goethem makes a 20-minute contribution for the international project 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights'. Her subject is Article 13, on the right to freedom of movement within and beyond national borders.

1993 - FUGA '93


(c)Nicole Van Goethem & Cinété, 2002

'a symbolic parody of fundamental loneliness' (Nicole van Goethem)

L.A.T. (Living Apart Together) was completed two years after her death by her permanent employees, led by Rudi Renson, her partner. She had already finished the screenplay and storyboard in 1990, but financial problems had delayed the animation. In L.A.T. a blind painter has a lat relationship with a blind woman who also often cleans his house and an affair with a deaf model. The film shows that people are blind and deaf to emotions. The dialogues in flat Antwerp were narrated by An Nelissen and Manou Kersting.


Filmproject The Spectator (Nicole van Goethem, 1986-1989)


Animatiefilmproject (TV) Time is Changing door Nicole van Goethem en Rudi Renson, serie met verschillende afleveringen, nooit gerealiseerd


Filmproject (twee vrouwen op een bank) door Nicole van Goethem