Wednesday, May 18, 2011

2011 Cannes Marathon: Lorna's Silence

(Winner of the Best Screenplay Prize at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival)

Since their emergence to the international film scene, the Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne had made a series of acclaimed films that helped raise the profile for European cinema. 1999’s Rosetta and 2005’s L’Enfant both won the duo the prestigious Palme D’or at the Cannes Film Festival in those years while their 2002 film Le Fils (The Son) won their longtime collaborator Oliver Gourmet the Best Actor prize at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. In 2008, the duo returned to the film scene with their seventh feature film Le Silence de Lorna (Lorna’s Silence).

Written and directed by the Dardenne brothers, Le Silence de Lorna tells the story of an Albanian woman married to a drug addict as she hopes to get out of the marriage and fulfill her dream. Meeting a man she wants to marry for business purposes, she runs into trouble for herself and the man that she really loves. Starring Arta Dobroshi, Jeremie Renier, Fabrizio Rongione, and Oliver Gourmet. Le Silence de Lorna is a compelling yet haunting drama from the Dardenne Brothers.

Lorna (Arta Dobroshi) is a young Albanian woman who works at a clothing plant trying to save up money so she and her boyfriend Sokol (Alban Ukaj) could own and run a snack shop. Yet, in order to make the kind of money to buy a place with Sokol working around all over Europe. She needed to be in a fake marriage orchestrated by an Italian taxi driver named Fabio (Fabrizio Rongione) who hopes to become a gang boss. Fabio has Lorna marry a young junkie named Claudy (Jeremie Renier) as after two weeks of marriage, Lorna wants a divorce. Even as she learns that Claudy is struggling to get clean while Lorna is getting closer to her dream.

Following a bad withdrawal reaction, Claudy is sent to the hospital as Lorna isn’t sure what to do as she turns to Fabio for help. Fabio is arranging for Lorna to marry a Russian named Andrei (Anton Yakovlev) so he can get a European passport once Lorna gets her Belgium citizenship ID. First, they need to get Claudy out of the picture as Lorna tries to do things to get the divorce to happen. Yet, Claudy’s issues and his struggle to stay clean complicate things as Lorna gains feelings for him over his plight. After that moment, things become more complicated as Lorna is getting closer to her dream along with her next marriage to Andrei. Still, she is dealing with further issues that might prevent the chance for her dream as Fabio is becoming more upset with what Lorna is facing.

While the film’s lack of plot is about a woman being part of a sham marriage to make money. It’s really about a woman being put into a situation to make a better life for herself and her boyfriend who is somewhere around Europe to work as they meet a few times a month. Yet, she’s also surrounded by two different men who are helping make this happen as part of a deal. One is a taxi driver trying to organize everything so he can make some money and so can she. Then there’s a heroin addict trying to get clean but he’s struggling with withdrawal along with the fact that he’s kind of a child of sorts who only wants money for cigarettes (when he’s not desperate for drugs).

The Dardenne brothers don’t create characters that are caricatures nor one-dimensional but actual human beings that are flawed and have motives. Fabio might seem like a villain because of the way he organizes things for his own ambitions as a crime boss. Yet, he is also someone who cares for Lorna by taking her to the hospital and helping her out as he’s really just a middle-man. Then there’s Lorna who is a complicated woman as she is trying to all she can to open a snack bar. While she doesn’t love Claudy, she does care about him as she asks him to hit her for a quickie divorce but he’s not able to. She takes matters into her own hands but would come with a price as the screenplay is definitely intriguing in its character study.

The direction of the Dardenne brothers is very engaging as the duo does do a lot of the same things in their cinema verite approach to filmmaking like in previous films. Yet, they also broaden their approach with a lot less shaky hand-held cameras while maintaining something that is very straightforward. This lack of style in their direction might be put off some viewers but they know how to make it not boring. Even as they provide some wonderful wide shots of a city in Belgium along with some overhead shots of cars driving on a highway. Yet, it plays to their themes of the struggle of the working class as they don’t sugarcoat nor exaggerate anything that is shown on film. It’s clear that the Dardenne Brothers are refining their technique more as filmmakers while becoming more confident as storytellers.

Cinematographer Alain Marcoen does an excellent job with the photography that strays a bit from the grainy look of previous Dardenne brother films as it complements more of the colorful look of the film. Even as it plays to its naturalist yet cinema verite style without being too gritty as it’s one of the film’s technical highlights. Editor Marie-Helene Dozo does a fine job with the editing in maintaining a leisured pace that isn’t very slow in terms of what is typical of European films. At the same time, Dozo brings a very straightforward to the editing with smooth yet jumpy transitions and rhythmic jump-cuts for some of the film’s dramatic moments.

Production designer Igor Gabriel does a nice job with the set design for the film such as the apartment that Lorna and Claudy live in along with the place that Lorna works at where most of the film is shot on location. Costume designer Monic Parelle does a great job with the costumes from the casual clothes the men wear to the more stylish clothing that Lorna wears including a red sweater, red pants, and all sorts of styles that play up to her personality. Sound editor Julie Brenta does a good job with the sound work to help enhance the location and surroundings the characters are in. Even in scenes where there’s music playing on location to make it feel real as possible.

The casting is another highlight of the film as it features such Dardenne Brother regulars like Morgan Marinne as Fabio’s henchman Spirou and Oliver Gourmet as a police inspector. Other notable performances include Mireille Bailly as a sympathetic nurse who tries to help Lorna out in her situation, Grigori Manoukov as Andrei’s interpreter, and Anton Yakovlev as the Russian immigrant Andrei who just wants a passport. Alban Ukaj is very good as Lorna’s boyfriend Sokol who has high hopes for his future with Lorna only to become upset following her own issues. Jeremie Renier is great as Claudy, a junkie struggling to get clean as he clings to Lorna for help while trying to do what is right for himself and Lorna.

Fabrizio Rongione is excellent as Fabio, a taxi driver trying to help Lorna make deals while reminding her of what is at stake while struggling with what is going on. Finally, there’s Arta Dobroshi is a superb breakthrough performance as Lorna. Dobroshi plays a young woman striving to do what is best for herself and her future while dealing with the complications surrounding her journey. Dobroshi brings a realistic yet subtle performance as a young woman caught in a scheme where she is supposed to do things their way only to undo things in the process. It’s a very chilling yet mesmerizing performance from the young actress from the Albanian actress.

Le Silence de Lorna is a powerful yet harrowing film from the Dardenne brothers featuring a brilliant performance from Arta Dobroshi. Fans of the Dardenne brothers will no doubt see this as one of their finest films to date while be amazed by how they’re refining their craft as filmmakers. Notably as it’s an indication that the Dardenne brothers are one of the best filmmakers working today. In the end, Le Silence de Lorna is a triumphant film from the Dardenne Brothers.

Dardenne Brothers Films: (Falsch) - (I Think of You) - La promesse - Rosetta - The Son - L'Enfant - The Kid with a Bike - Two Days, One Night

© thevoid99 2011

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