Bel­gian broth­ers film the dark side of re­la­tions

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Go See - By John Bei­fuss

bei­fuss@com­mer­cialap­peal.com

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.

Chris­tine Plenus

Arta Do­broshi as Lorna

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