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Earlier this evening, I was attending the premiere of "L'Enfant" in
"L'Enfant" shows us a socio-drama, with a story located in the southern region of Belgium, in a city called Seraing, where most movies of the Dardenne brothers are situated.
I will not go into any plot summaries, but let me make a comparison with other directors, so you might get a clue if you'd like to watch this movie or not. Socio-drama is a genre in film not only made in Belgium. Many great directors have made solid socio-drama's: Aki Kaurismaki, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and many others.
Where you can find a twist of humor in Kaurismaki's movies, you'll have a hard time finding it in "L'Enfant". A high level of realism avoids any dramatization of the struggle-for-life the protagonists experience. This makes it for the viewer not easier to swallow. The absence of a soundtrack even increases this effect.
This movie has many strong points, and although I haven't seen many of the other films who were competing with "L'Enfant" at the Cannes film festival 2005, I think this film has fairly won the Palme d'Or because it scores very high on the essential aspects of film-making: acting, camera-work (see comment by Toon Creemers) and script (dialogues).
I highly recommend this movie, but don't expect to be visually entertained the way we are used to by big budget films from Hollywood. Movies like these don't need a lot of dialogue, fancy one-liners or historical quotes - the picture says it all, in a simple but effective way.
The Dardennes, who won their second Palme d"Or at Cannes this year with
"L'Enfant" (The Child), describe it as "a love story that is also the
story of a father." Twenty-year-old Bruno (Jérémie Renier) is a petty
thief and scam artist in Seraing, an east Belgian steel town, who lives
off his girlfriend's welfare and impulsively spends whatever he steals.
When eighteen-year-old Sonia (Déborah François) returns after the birth
of their son Jimmy, Bruno's far worse than merely unready to accept the
responsibility of fatherhood. Unbeknownst to Sonia, he decides to sell
the baby on the black market. The film is about what happens following
this grotesquely ill-advised decision. Who is really the "child" here?
Well, clearly the story is about Bruno.
"L'Enfant" is urgent with movement and has little talk. As with the 1996 "La promesse" (The Promise, 1996), where Jérémie Renier debuted, "Rosetta" (1999), and "Le Fils" (The Son, 2003), the action is ceaseless and obsessive and seems almost real-time. But the Dardennes make every minute count. In those rare moments when the hyper-kinetic Bruno is momentarily still and the camera looks into his face, there's a strong sense of the doubt that will lead to his transformation. When Bruno tells Sonia "I'm sorry," or "I need you" and "I love you" the words carry weight because he doesn't normally ever say such things. But Sonia says, "You lie as you breathe." "L'Enfant" is as powerful and accomplished as anything the Dardennes have done, and as thought-provoking.
I had the fortune to go see this at its Belgian premiere, which was
attended by the main, and stunningly beautiful female actress, Déborah
François. I found myself to be interested in the story from the start.
The beginning of the film starts very simply, a young mother with a
new-born baby searching on the street for what the audience presumes at
the time, and is later verified to be the father of her child. The
storyline then develops more as a sketch of the day-to-day living at
the bottom of Belgian society. Though despite the fact a grim picture
of the central couple's living situation is presented, the film-maker
has not crossed the line and has interlaced many light-hearted moments
into the movie.
The story develops as Bruno, the baby's father, is quickly shown to have no real interest in the baby or fatherhood, just in making money. He also is portrayed to have a genuine love for Sonya. In this sense the audience follows Brunos life, knowing not whether to cheer him or pray for his downfall, after he makes several questionable choices about the fate of his baby.
I recommend this film to anyone who enjoys a simple film without Hollywood special effects, planned cinematography or any sort of soundtrack. I can see its appeal, but personally I came away wondering what exactly the director was trying to prove by making this film. He did succeed,however, to provide a somewhat entertaining, if slightly heavy film. The cast are excellent.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Unlike some contemporary films that depict unethical behavior as "cool"
and without consequence, the films of Jean and Luc Dardenne display a
moral center and consequences for people's actions. Their latest
effort, L'Infant (The Child), winner of the Palme D'Or at the 2005
Cannes Film Festival, is a fully realized, powerful work of art that
brings back Jeremie Renier, ten years after his impressive debut in La
Promesse. Set in an industrial city in eastern Belgium, L'Infant is
shot with the unmistakable Dardenne trademarks: a shaky hand-held
camera, natural sounds with no background music, a concern for the
underclass that globalization left behind, and a gritty and realistic
look and feel.
Bruno (Ranier) and his girlfriend Sonia (Deborah Francois) live on the margins. He is a low-level thief, panhandler, and slacker who refuses to work and can only support his girlfriend by illegal means. It is clear that he loves Sonia but only in a playful, childlike way, not in a manner that recognizes adult responsibility. He lives for the moment rather than in the moment, pursuing instant gratification without thinking of how his actions may affect others. When she comes home from the hospital after giving birth to a baby boy she names Jimmy, she finds that Bruno has sublet her apartment in order to buy a jazzy windbreaker with stripes. With no apartment to go home to, the two are forced to huddle together on a cold embankment.
While Sonia waits in a long line for her unemployment check, Bruno, acting on a tip from a fence, impulsively decides on his own to sell Jimmy to a criminally connected adoption agency without thinking about how Sonia will react. When he tells her almost matter-of-factly what he did, she collapses and is rushed to the hospital. Bruno, showing remorse, tries to rescind the deal and retrieve Jimmy but is in over his head with a ruthless gang that demands he pay them a small fortune to compensate for their losses. Bruno begs Sonia to take him back and forgive him but she refuses. The more he tries to put his life in order, the deeper it sinks into chaos and, in a daring chase sequence, his reckless actions endanger the life of Steve (Jeremie Seard), his fourteen-year-old artful dodger.
The Dardennes do not tell us how to feel about Bruno and we are left to sort out our own reactions. A movie is not a court of justice," says Jean-Pierre Dardenne. "We try to make it so that the viewer feels many things about Bruno. When you see him selling the child, you think, 'No, this can't be, this is impossible.' But then the more you see him, the more you realize he's not just a bastard. You are forced to try to understand the character." Like the Dardenne's earlier films, the power of L'Infant is cumulative. As Bruno evolves and we become more aware of his vulnerability, our capacity for forgiveness is challenged and the film prompts us to grow along with the character. In an ending that is unique and painfully touching, L'Infant achieves a rare authenticity.
firstly you have to know that i am sixteen years old and i am from
Argentina so, forgive me for my poor English.
i am a lover of Cannes cinema,and this movie showed me that i am not wrong. It is so real and crude that you suffer with the characters. Seeing Bruno walking in the lonely streets is when i take notice of what kind of movie i was watching. Not a very good movie otherwise a masterpiece that combines love, reality, suspense,and forgiveness.
You will believe that Bruno is a real person,who was followed by a camera in his "adventures" Watch L'infant if you want to see a class of how to turn a simple story into a crude and impacting film. A film where mistakes, love, forgiveness anb redemption are together to demonstrate what great directors and gifted actors can create.
Although I have not seen all other Cannes' comp. films, I think this is a worthy winner of the Palm d'or. The film's scenery is gray Seraing, like the previous Dardenne films, and I think this is the first film in which the camera-work complements the scenery and story near perfectly. Scene's often contain only one or two shots, cutting right when everything has been said. Its one of the few films where I did not notice the camera (I'm a student cameraman), which should be the goal of every cameraman, at least in this style of film. The acting is very impressive (especially Jeremie Renier as Bruno), like previous Dardenne Films. The film seems the most accessible Dardenne so far, although it does not bore in simplicity (I saw it twice in one week, avant-premiere and sneak preview, and I liked the second time best).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Industrialized societies have created a phenomenon among the young
people that drop out from their midst, an aimless class without
direction. Most of these youths will go into crime as the only means to
survive their meager existences. They will also enter into
relationships with other young people and produce illegitimate
children, which is the subject at the center of this magnificent film
by Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne.
Sonia, the young mother, is seen as the film opens looking for Bruno, the father of her infant son. It is clear, by the way we see Sonia take care of the baby, she is a mother who loves her son. Bruno, on the other hand, a petty thief, couldn't care less about this son, who probably looks not real to him, or at least, he cannot relate to the child's presence in his life.
Bruno, and the young teen agers that he befriends, are partners in crime in stealing whatever come their way. Bruno, who obviously has no scruples, doesn't think anything when he learns about the lucrative market for selling babies to criminals that are willing to pay a lot of money in order to get them. Selling his own son means nothing to him.
What Bruno doesn't count on is on Sonia's reaction, as she collapses in front of his eyes when he informs her about what he has done. The shock alone sends Sonia into the hospital where she is inconsolable for the great loss she has suffered. Seeing her in the state she is triggers in Bruno a reaction into getting back the baby. He gets the infant back, but the criminals involved in the deal will make him pay dearly for the business he took away from them.
The last straw that unravels Bruno is the street mugging with young Steve in which, unknown to him, people go after him in a chase that takes the duo into the river. Steve, who suffers a cold shock from the water, almost drowns from the experience. When Bruno confesses to the crime, he does the only decent thing he has done in his life. The final scene shows Sonia, who has come to visit him in prison with their son, and Bruno who finally understand the enormity of his crime and his guilt.
Jeremie Renier makes a good impression as Bruno. As the careless drifter, Mr. Renier does some of the best work of his career. He is totally believable as the petty criminal and predator. Deborah Francois captured Sonia and the love she felt for her son. Jeremie Segard is seen as Steve, Bruno's contact and partner in crime.
Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne are film makers that deal in real situations like the one they present us here. "L'Enfant" is one of the best films they have done because the intensity they bring to the story that shows that even a hardened criminal can redeem himself when he understand the enormity of his crime.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Like a Chekov short story, simple, spare, and POW, right to the gut.
The totally marginal, a petty thief and his welfare girlfriend, clutching that most vulnerable and pathetic of all creatures, a newborn, dodge the indifferent menace of malicious streets. And the father, a total scamp and immature airhead, is barely worthy of contempt. So how do you make a fine movie out of this?
The Dardennes have eked a specialized cinematic niche for themselves: Ascetic social realism, the moral dilemmas of the European lower rungs and blue collar, stripped of adornment, yet somehow universal.
Bruno doesn't bother visiting his girlfriend in the hospital while she's having his baby. She has a problem even finding him when she gets out. Without her knowledge, or permission, he sublets her apartment while she's in labor, and is sleeping under a bridge. The new family is homeless.
But they're children, urban peasants, hardly different from Hardy's. The scenes establishing their relationship, short, prompt, are brutally sweet.
Then he sells the baby.
That Bruno isn't capable of great complexity limits the film. Watching a dope screw up makes for a haphazard, at times dull, ride -- you think he deserves the worst, think the baby is better off without him. Still, a sure Dostoevskian compass guides his inchoate moral choices.
Though not as compelling or rich as "Rosetta" (my favorite) or "La Promesse" (the crowds' favorite), or nuanced as "Le Fils," I still urge you to hang in there. The final scene delivers.
PS. I WILL be seeing the next Dardennes' film, no question.
PPS. Bruno is in a sense an untouched, unformed, unsocialized tabla raza, yes, OK, an "enfant," the human animal, neither good nor bad. The movie delves into his inherent social, moral nature -- "Is man good or bad?" What a sophomoric, embarrassing question you reply, in these pseudohip times of ours. When he lifts the 14 year-old on his back out of the deathly frozen black river, the child groaning piteously in pain, it is a "Christian" moment. God Save Our Souls (and I'm not remotely Christian).
L'Infant (The child), the new Dardenne movie, awarded with two Palms D' Or, is located in Seraing, the probably most marginal city of Belgium. A superb Jérémie Renier plays Bruno, an unemployed father, living from day to day to survive. He robs people and does not seem to have any remorse about what he 's doing. He even goes as far that he sells Jimmy, the baby (l'enfant). The reaction of the mother, a great Déborah François, makes him think and he tries to make it up to her. So far the story, this is a typical Dardenne movie. Same style, same sort of filming, not even music. Just hard reality, that's what they wanted to show the audience. What we get is a raw, sober movie. I did not miss the music at all, but it still misses something. The film does not absorb your full attention, like lots of people say. 'Lilja 4-ever', a Lukas Moodysson socio-drama, is way more touching than these characters in L'Infant. Not the greatest Belgian movie ever, but an enjoyable one. 8,5/10
While most movies have become formatted and soulless products that get ruthlessly promoted and marketed or else are tedious and insufferable exercises in navel-gazing, only seldom does one come across a genuine work of art, a moving expression of the human mind. This film is the jewel in the crown of the Dardenne brothers and the towering achievement of their artistic endeavour. Bruno and Sonia are the main characters in this movie. They have a kid, he sells it (no spoiler, you get as much from the trailer), she... Find for yourself what happens next. The movie is fast-paced, it'll hit you like a punch in the stomach. It's very basic : love, betrayal, money, a redemption of sorts and cellphones or GSMs as they are called in Belgium. The actors are wonderful. Bruno is raw, forceful and energetic, a bit like a child, whereas Sonia's character makes for one of the best female parts I have seen as far as I can recall, a far cry from the usual dull and stereotypical fare that is dished out these days in movie theatres. The film will make you regain some hope in the power and strength of movies as works of art. Go see it.
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