Friday, May 24, 2013

2013 Cannes Marathon: Le Fils

(Winner of the Best Actor Prize to Olivier Gourmet at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival)

Written and directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Le Fils (The Son) is the story about a carpenter who hires a 16-year old as his apprentice knowing that the boy killed his son many years ago. The film is an exploration into the world of grief and forgiveness as a man tries to come to terms with his loss while getting to know the young man who ruined his life. Starring Olivier Gourmet, Morgan Marinne, and Isabella Soupart. Le Fils is a remarkable film from the Dardenne Brothers.

The film is a simple story about a man dealing with the loss of his son five years ago as he is a carpenter who teaches young teens at a training center where one of his new students is the boy who killed his son some years ago. What happens for the man named Olivier (Olivier Gourmet) is that he becomes troubled and conflicted about whether to get revenge for what happened or to understand what happened on that day his life changed. During the course of the film, Olivier observes the young boy named Francis (Morgan Marinne) where he learns more about him and his home life as Olivier is later confronted by his ex-wife Magali (Isabella Soupart) about why he put the boy in his class. For Olivier, he is wondering why is he interested in this boy that ruined his life?

The screenplay by the Dardenne Brothers doesn’t have much of a plot nor does it need one where it is more concerned with the conflict that Olivier is facing internally. He is already filled with loss as he just fills his time helping young boys how to become carpenters while he rarely meets his ex-wife whose life is about to change where it’s clear she’s set to move on. When Francis comes into the picture, he is unsure about what to do as he observes the boy who is revealed to be this quiet kid who is just trying to start a new life as he has no idea who Olivier is. Once the story progresses where Olivier becomes a father figure of sorts for Francis, there is still that conflict over the fact that he’s helping the boy who killed his son where there are no explanations into these actions.

The direction of the Dardenne Brothers is typical of their style that harkens to concept of cinema verite where it’s shot in a documentary hand-held style to capture whatever action and drama that is happening. It’s a visual style that often works in order to capture a sense of realism but what makes this film standout is the fact that there’s a bit of suspense that is told in an unconventional manner. There are also moments where the directing style can be very entrancing as the Dardennes often shoot scenes in long takes including a scene in the car where the camera moves inside where Francis goes to the back while the camera goes in the front in one entire take. It’s a moment in the third act that includes the eventual dramatic confrontation over what Francis did but it is told in that realistic manner that plays into that theme of grief. Overall, the Dardenne Brothers create a very riveting yet haunting film about loss and conflict.

Cinematographer Alain Marceon does excellent work with the film‘s very colorful yet low-key cinematography to capture some of the exterior locations of Belgium including some use of available light in the nighttime scenes. Editor Marie-Helene Dozo does nice work with the editing as it‘s mostly low-key with its straightforward cutting style where there aren‘t a lot of cuts except in a few suspenseful moments. Production designer Igor Gabriel does terrific work with some of the minimal set pieces from the trade school to the lumber yard owned by Olivier‘s brother.. Costume designer Monic Parelle does terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual. Sound editor Benoit De Clerck does superb work with the sound to capture everything on location that helps with the film’s drama and suspense.

The film’s cast is great as it mostly features non-actors in small roles while Isabella Soupart is wonderful as Olivier’s ex-wife Magali who is about to start a new life until she hears about Francis being released and is at Olivier’s school. Morgan Marinne is brilliant as the boy Francis who is very quiet until he finds a father-figure in Olivier as he sees the man as a beacon of hope and redemption for his past actions. Finally, there’s Olivier Gourmet in a marvelous performance as the carpenter Olivier as a man trying to move on until Francis comes into his life as he deals with his grief but also the conflict about the boy who killed his son some years ago on whether to help him or destroy him.

Le Fils is a phenomenal film from the Dardenne Brothers that features a mesmerizing performance from Olivier Gourmet. The film is definitely one of the Dardenne Brothers’ finest films as well as a compelling piece on the idea of vengeance, grief, and conflict. It’s also a film that doesn’t play by any rules while allowing the audience to understand a father trying to comprehend his loss. In the end, Le Fils is a fantastic film from the Dardenne Brothers.

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

© thevoid99 2013


Chris said...

Glad you really liked Le Fils, it's one of the directors best for creating tension I think, my other favorite they did is Kid With a Bike. Rosetta and L'Enfant I liked, but not quite as much.
I still need to see Lorna's Silence and La Promesse. How would you rank the films by the Dardenne's?

thevoid99 said...

Well, read this list and your answer will be revealed.