Le Silence de Lorna

Le Silence de Lorna

Le Silence de Lorna (2008, Directors: Jean Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne): Sadly, once again I come to the work of acclaimed film­makers with no pre­vi­ous exper­i­ence of their work. The Dardenne broth­ers have been min­ing their own seam for many years now, explor­ing the lives of the poor, unglam­or­ous and des­per­ate in unfussy real­istic films. Their latest pro­voked polar­iz­ing reac­tions at Cannes this year, where some found it styl­ist­ic­ally too sim­ilar to their pre­vi­ous work, or them­at­ic­ally too much like other films about the inter­sec­tions of the old and new Europe. Luckily, I wasn’t car­ry­ing that bag­gage.

Lorna (Arta Dobroshi) is a young Albanian woman liv­ing in Belgium whose dream is to one day open a snack bar with her boy­friend Sokol. In order to be eli­gible for bank loans and other bene­fits, she enters a mar­riage of con­veni­ence with a heroin addict to gain her cit­izen­ship. We quickly learn, how­ever, that this is only a small part of a lar­ger, darker scheme mas­ter­minded by a local small-time hood named Fabio. Both Lorna and her hus­band Claudy (Jeremie Renier, a stal­wart of the Dardennes’ recent films) have been paid, with the under­stand­ing that Lorna will divorce Claudy as soon as she gains her cit­izen­ship so she can remarry a wealthy Russian, allow­ing him to obtain cit­izen­ship as well. At least that’s what Claudy thinks. But Fabio’s plan is to stage Claudy’s death from a heroin over­dose instead. Will Lorna go along with this decep­tion? At the begin­ning it appears that she will. She and Claudy live under the same roof, but keep sep­ar­ate rooms and there is little in the way of sym­pathy. But when he decides that he wants to kick his habit and begins beg­ging her for help, Lorna’s atti­tude slowly begins to change. After a suc­cess­ful hos­pital stay, he is released and his rela­tion­ship with Lorna seems to enter pre­vi­ously unknown ter­rit­ory. The plan is in jeop­ardy because people who star­ted off using each other start to feel con­nec­ted. Fabio, mean­while, is des­per­ate to com­plete the deal with the Russian at all costs.

Dobroshi is in almost every frame of this film and she is won­der­ful, show­ing a single-minded stoicism punc­tu­ated with some unex­pec­ted out­bursts of emo­tion. Remarkably, des­pite the dehu­man­iz­ing aspects of the scheme, it’s one Lorna entered into will­ingly, and at no point is there any sexual exploit­a­tion. In fact, when sex does enter the pic­ture, it’s as an expres­sion of rebel­lion and of pas­sion, and it throws the whole greed-fuelled plan into dis­ar­ray. She soon comes to real­ize her power­less­ness and expend­ab­il­ity and by the end of the film, her dreams have been replaced with a des­per­ate desire simply to sur­vive. Along the way, though, this sol­it­ary and determ­ined fig­ure becomes more alive and less alone, even as her care­fully-ordered life loses all of its sta­bil­ity. If this is minor Dardennes, I can’t wait to catch up on the major stuff.



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