Belgian brothers film the dark side of relations
Brothers from Belgium, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne twice have won the Palme d’Or— arguably the most prestigious prize in cinema — for best movie at the Cannes International Film Festival.
This places the Dardennes in the elite company of Francis Ford Coppola and Japan’s Shohei Imamura, among others; yet their movies — produced on low budgets, and staged with documentarylike naturalism — lack the grandeur and compositional elegance found in the work of other two-time winners. Visually, the Dardennes anticipated the shoestring “mumblecore” features produced the past few years by regional American filmmakers; but “mumblecore” focuses on artsy, educated young people with mostly self-made problems, whereas the protagonists in the Dardennes’ films are desperate inhabitants of Belgian underbelly that tourists never see. They are immigrants and outcasts; criminals and addicts; the unemployed and the unemployable.
The second Dardenne film to receive a theatrical booking in Memphis (after “L’Enfant” in 2006), “Lorna’s Silence” is another of the brothers’ movies in which money — not love or family — is the literal currency that drives social behavior (marriage, in particular). Human relationships are reduced to financial transactions. Twice in the film, a character rejects another character’s offer of cash; the refusal is presented as the ultimate insult.
Arta Dobroshi stars as Lorna, an Albanian in Belgium who has married a junkie so she can become a Belgian citizen, and later marry — for a $10,000 payoff — a Russian emigrant, so he can become a citizen. Organized by a low-level gangster/hustler, the scheme becomes complicated when Lorna begins to sympathize with her addict husband (Jérémie Renier), and balks at the plan to murder him with a forced overdose.
Its abrupt transitions and its purposeful withholding of information notwithstanding, “Lorna’s Silence” is perhaps the first Dardenne film that could be reworked into a conventional Hollywood thriller. The movie is less convincing than such past Dardenne films as “Rosetta” and “La Promesse”; as the story progresses, Lorna seems to behave less like a “real” person and more like a narrative construction, programmed toward an eerie sudden ending that is more symbolic than satisfying.
“Lorna’s Silence” is playing exclusively at Malco’s Ridgeway Four.
Arta Dobroshi as Lorna