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The titular heroine of the Dardenne brothers latest movie is Lorna, a
recent immigrant to Belgium who spends her days earning paychecks from
a dry-cleaners while earning more substantial money by selling herself
off as a bride to a Russian man looking to immigrate to Belgium
himself. Before she can marry the Russian however, Lorna must obtain a
divorce from her current husband, Claudy, a broken-down, pathetic,
drug-addict who only married Lorna in order to obtain the cash to fund
The relationship between the young couple is complicated. Lorna, with a boyfriend back home and another potential husband eager to obtain Belgian citizenship waiting in the wings, has no romantic attachment to Claudy. Early scenes show her disgust and impatience for her lazy, feeble husband who does little more then shoot-up, play cards and follow her around like a puppy-dog. Nevertheless she can't help but feel sympathy towards the man she is using solely to obtain her citizenship. Claudy's feelings are equally muddled. He is aware that Lorna is using him and yet is devastated when she talks about divorce. He plays on his weaknesses to illicit Lorna's sympathy and then plagues her with childish demands. Their relationship, masterfully played out by Arta Dobroshi and returning Dardenne brother favourite Jérémie Renier, is utterly, intensely fascinating. They're both the victims and the aggressors in their relationship and who you root for and who you find repulsive flips frequently from scene to scene.
But the movie isn't focused on the relationship between Claudy and Lorna. As Lorna struggles to earn her money quickly she is forced to choose between protecting Claudy, whose desire to kick his drug-habit is problematic for her divorce proceedings, and her desire to protect her own small dream of owning a café with her long-distance boyfriend. Her optimism and strength are quickly torn apart when the man responsible for arranging both her marriages quickly yanks her down to reality by reminding her that she is little more then a pawn for people who want to cheat the system. The movie falls apart in the final third, the twists and turns a bit ridiculous given the slow, yet gripping, pace of the previous sections. And yet the movie is still compelling, quietly questioning a system in which people must go to such violent lengths in order to obtain simple and innocent desires.
The lack of music, gritty cinematography and superb acting all lend itself to the feelings of realism that pervade the film. The Dardenne brothers make us believe in Lorna's plight, her struggle between what she feels morally is right and the silence that will enable her to live out her dream.
The Dardenne Brothers have a habit of immersing us in the muck of life,
then casually reminding us that, in case we forgot, we are surrounded
by beauty. Their latest film, Lorna's Silence, is full of the trials of
conflicted humanity with all too visible surface scars hiding its true
nature. Set in the Belgian city of Liege, Lorna, an Albanian immigrant,
is eager to realize her dream of owning a snack shop together with her
boyfriend Sokol (Alban Ukaj), a long-distance truck driver. In order to
pursue this goal, she has paid the sleazy mob-connected Fabio (Fabrizio
Rongione) to arrange a marriage with a Belgian heroin addict, Claudy
(Jérémie Renier), in exchange for Belgian citizenship.
After divorcing Claudy, Lorna's plan is to marry again, this time to a Russian mobster (Anton Yakovlev) so he can get his own papers. Luc Dardenne says that the idea for the film came from a social worker who told them about an incident in which her brother, a junkie, was offered a huge sum of money by the Albanian mafia to enter into a paper marriage with an Albanian prostitute. She would then divorce him for another wad of cash and be free to marry a member of the Albanian mafia, both becoming Belgian citizens in the process.
The early images are all about money. From the opening scene where bills are being counted, money is constantly being handed over, counted, refused, or buried in the ground. The cold expression on Lorna's face and her abruptness in conversation tells us almost immediately that the marriage is a fake. Lorna ignores Claudy's almost pathetic neediness while greed pervades the atmosphere. She fakes being physically abused by Claudy in order to secure evidence for a quickie divorce but Claudy is unwilling or unable to hurt her. In a scene marked by ghoulish humor, she slams herself into a door and bangs her head against a wall to fill her body with bruises.
Things become complicated, however, when Claudy vows to kick his drug habit and Lorna begins to care for him, resisting Fabio's attempts to eliminate him via a drug overdose. Dobroshi delivers an outstanding performance, as does Renier who has become one of the Dardennes' most confident regulars. Though the film is more plot-driven and the camera-work less oppressively intimate than some of the brothers' earlier films, Lorna's Silence is nonetheless a gripping, powerful drama, full of searing insight into the human condition. What is most important is not the story or the movement of the camera but the continuity of the theme of the awakening of conscience.
Just when we feel that the characters have no place to go but down, the Dardennes tear us away suddenly from our addiction to the physical and hurl us into a world of tenderness and infinite possibility. As Lorna senses that she is suddenly at risk, she seems to break through the cycle of futile actions that have marked her life and, even in the mundane task of gathering wood to build a fire, we sense the exhilaration of someone growing before our eyes. As the Dardennes invite us to step into a bigger world, we hear the closing reverie of Beethoven's other-worldly Piano Sonata No. 32 reminding us that we are tuned into what the Quaker poet Thomas Kelly has called "the silence which is the source of all sound".
Another powerful Dardenne brothers "social cinema".
The view is relentlessly depressing, coherently so. Everything is "grey". Perhaps a ray of light shines when Lorna helps Claudy out of his habit and they ...; the next day she seems spontaneously happy, even her clothing seems to have colour (red). Fabio, as a perfect small time mobster, brings us back to reality. That (Lorna's) mental health is finally a casualty in this world without empathy should come as no surprise to us, wealthy bourgeoisie viewers: we don't face their problems and life without attributes, just "survival" in an urban setting. Notice the poverty of "symbols" at their house. Claudy only has his CDs (which only make him look even more childish) but Lorna's got... nothing. Few sparse clothing and a toothbrush. The ending is soaring indeed.
I can add little but to say that there are some loose threads, in my opinion a bit too loose but, as a friend said: "It's French cinema, what do you expect :)?" (The Russian plot being brought to a halt for ... reason, the split in the couple, the sudden idealization of Claudy, to the point of giving his "son" everything. It's obvious she won't get far having done what she did, but I guess we're into her head, which became rather cloudy near the end (so she being left "free" is just that, an illusion).
I'd have liked Sokol's character a bit more of screen time. He seems in love, then hurried back to work, then grouchy near the end, without any explanation of his jerky moods. Jérémie is a hell of a good actor. I didn't have much faith in him, but it's not his thinness, his tight jaw or stare into emptiness. He IS despair. Lorna...Arta Dobroshi had a "make or break" role here, and she delivered a thrilling performance. Nuanced, of a person probably without much "mystery" for our standards. But very real, as any low class suburbs in an industrialized country. She seems perfectly cast for the role. Yes, she's very beautiful, but her face not being perfect, her thinness being natural, not fit like Hollywood actresses (and without any aesthetic surgeries) all make for her a probably too nice "dry cleaner's", but nevertheless, believable in her constant strive for money (where to hide it, what to do with it, etc). The way the Moreau family treats her, even regarding $, is perfect. If only they knew... I like that Lorna is far from perfect. She was fed up of Claudy, even considering murder as "just another option". Yes, her sudden outburst of emotion gives some very timely "drama" to the plot :), but I feel it was worth it.
The naturalist script is what makes this film flow.
Music is great. Beethoven's Sonata 34 op. 111 by Alfred Brendel sounded outlandish, like it were part of another, more abstract world. It is a shocking contrast to the world down below, empty of any feelings. As such, I think it's a brilliant emotional resource.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Le silence de Lorna (Lorna's Silence) is the latest film by the great
Dardenne brothers. They are modernizing cinema of today philosophically
as they are narratively. Compared to another film by the brothers Le
fils (2002) Le silence de Lorna is not as experimental, but at least as
good, if not better. It's their first portrait of an adult woman and
they succeed incredibly well as always. The film deals with the
European identity of today, inhumanity in human trafficking, and puts
us in front of a social question: how can humanity or any sort of
morality remain in this cruel world we live in?
Lorna (Arta Dobroshi) is in her thirties living in Belgium and dreaming of a better life. She lives in an arranged marriage with a junkie, Claudy (Jérémie Renier). The man who runs the arranged marriage business, Fabio (Fabrizio Rongione) is planning to kill Claudy in hope of a better marriage deal. Fabio arranges men to marry Lorna for money so they can get a citizenship of Belgium. Le silence de Lorna deals with the subject of human trafficking; business where the price of human life isn't high. It all happens in front of our eyes but we aren't doing a thing. In the end it grows out to be a strong moral study and the influence Krzysztof Kieslowski has had on the brothers is obvious.
The Dardenne brothers are well known for their minimalism which can also be seen in Lorna's Silence. It doesn't have much music in it and the dialog is marginal - a lot from little is the core of minimalism. Luc Dardenne has said that he always listens to Beethoven before starting to work and, in the end, when the credits come on we get to listen Beethoven. The brothers have said that the more you take material away the closer you get to humane experiences. Their films are filled with body language, gestures and close camera-work. The cinematography is unique and reinforces the position of a camera as an instrument for philosophy. They follow their characters closely and through that let us observe the situations they get into, the situations in which they are prisoners of. The camera let's you to get into the minds of the characters. The camera sees what the character sees, it doesn't know what happens outside of the character's world - so what has been cloaked from us?
The leading themes of the story are humanity, detachment, guilt, inhumanity and the European identity of today. The subject is very current in the age we live in. As I earlier mentioned Le silence de Lorna brings up a question how humanity can survive in the world of human trafficking. All the people in the business are portrayed as inhumane and careless. Where the victim of the business (the junkie) is portrayed as innocent. The eternal battle between good and evil is just one of the references to religion. Even that the brothers are atheists they had a strong catholic upbringing which can clearly be seen in their work. God is dead in their world view but they often use Christian allegories to reconstruct new humane experiences.
In the end where Fabio hears that Lorna is pregnant and won't have an abortion he wants to get rid off her. We see Lorna getting away with her baby, going into a detached house in the woods - the culmination of theme detachment. It is quite obvious that Lorna isn't really pregnant. The baby is just a symbol. It's a memory of the past; of Cloudy and how it was Lorna's fault that he got killed. The baby is actually the guilt she's carrying.
A marvelous film about the loss of humanity. I just saw it in theaters today and it went straight to my top ten of the decade. This film is very energetic, the movement in it worked brilliantly and as the brothers have admitted; movement is much more important than the plot in their films. Le silence de Lorna is a thought-provoking experience about the world we live in, our concept of moral and the European identity.
LORNA'S SILENCE is a film that very quietly grabs you by the throat and
makes you pay attention to the stories of several emigrants that spin
out of control. It is written and directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc
Dardenne with an eye for verismo in the seamier side of the immigration
The story is set in Belgium where Lorna (Arta Dobroshi) works at a dry cleaners then goes home to her 'husband' Claudy (Jérémie Renier), a junkie who has been duped by Lorna and her little crime gang of cab driver Fabio (Fabrizio Rongione) and her boyfriend Sokol (Alban Ukaj)into marrying Lorna so that the Albanian girl can gain Belgian citizenship. Claudy seems a hopeless case, in withdrawal for the umpteenth time but committed to getting off heroin. He pleads with his 'arranged wife' to help him with his attempt to get clean. Meanwhile Fabio has other plans: Lorna is to 'marry' a wealthy Russian mobster to gain Belgian citizenship (a second arranged marriage) and in order for the second marriage to occur, Lorna must consent to letting Claudy overdose on heroin and die, making her a widow eligible for marriage. The other side story is that Lorna, now a Belgian citizen, can proceed with Sokol to set up a snack shop with Sokol using all the money she gains from the 'marriage game'.
All is well until Claudy convinces Lorna to help him get to a hospital and get 'clean' and along the way Lorna's feelings for Claudy turn to compassion and passion. An incident occurs that throws all of the plans to the wind and Lorna is left with her secret and will hopefully manage to find a stable life without the crime influence.
The acting is first rate and the moody atmosphere created is spellbinding. This is a little film that has a lot to say about the plight of immigrants.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Cannes follower will probably remember Belgium directors Dardenne
Brother's Golden Palm winner "The Child" (2005). "Lorna's silence",
latest Cannes winner (best screenplay) from them features again male
lead Jeremie Renier who plays yet another "fringe" character, but of a
different variety (irresponsible juvenile the last time; junkie this
time). The female lead Arta Dobroshi however is a new face, chosen
after a meticulous selection process.
The realistic world that underlies the plot is the illegal immigration business in Belgium, through sham marriages. In some cases, the customer, after securing the Belgium identity card, becomes a "service provider", in both cases through the arrangement of an underground organization. Lorna (Dobroshi) is such a case. In the context of this film, the life of Lorna evolves around three men: Claudy (Renier) the hired husband who got her into Belgium from Albania, Sokol her lover who is away most of the time seeking work and Spirou the goon who arranged her sham marriage with Claudy and is now employing her service for a new customer: a wealthy Russian.
Unlike Hollywood melodramas, the story here unfolds with relentless, grim reality as Spirol plans to kill Claudy (using drug overdose) to make way for the Russian while Lorna tries to achieve the same result by a lengthy and frustrating process of divorce application. In her race against time, she also develops, quite reluctantly, affection for Claudy who successfully quits the drug addiction.
The film has much to offer: sharp depiction of a deficient society, keen observation and thoughtful development of characters, skillful, lean cinematic narration (comparable to Hemmingway's prose). It touches by an unflinching stare at life rather than contriving manipulation of the audiences' emotion
With Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's fifth feature film, Lorna's
Silence, they decided to take a surprisingly unique approach to their
style in that they made it look more like a film than anything they had
done before. Gone are the intimate, gritty hand-held tracking shots
that place the audience into the perspective of the characters and
shoot from odd, seemingly improvised angles. Instead, each shot here is
much more staged and deliberate, focused on Lorna (Arta Dobroshi) and
making sure the audience is able to appreciate all of her surroundings
in each moment. It was an interesting approach from the Dardennes and I
have to admit a little jarring at first, but this step into a more
conventional shooting style provided the film with a contrast from
their previous work that I certainly appreciated.
As much as I adore their other work, it was nice to see them trying something new and ultimately it worked. The more conventional style does a service for the more conventional narrative structure of the film as well, as for the first time they work with a central plot that encompasses the entire picture, rather than focusing on a more free-formed character study. Lorna is an Albanian emigrant living in Belgium, in an arranged marriage to Claudy (Jeremie Renier) in order to acquire Belgian citizenship so that she can enter another arranged marriage with the Russian Andrei (Anton Yakovlev) after her and Claudy divorce. It's an elaborate scheme all run through Fabio (Fabrizio Rongione), a taxi driver looking to make some extra cash.
The setup is unexpectedly complex for the Dardennes, but what's not unexpected is how they approach the story primarily as a way to explore this character. They're not worried about whether the audience is keeping up with all of the semantics of the arranged marriages and divorces because they aren't too worried about it either; instead they're focused on how all of this is impacting Lorna, and that puts them right into their wheelhouse. In exploring this character, they take their trademark understated approach, letting the emotions sink in rather than explode outwardly. This provides for some fantastic internal acting by newcomer Arta Dobroshi, who shines even more tremendously in the few moments where she is able to let those emotions come out. The role marks a genuine "star is born" performance from Dobroshi, someone who we will hopefully be seeing much more of in the near future.
The supporting cast all puts in great work, but I have to give particular mention to Renier, who shines once again in an unusual way. The Dardennes have used Renier in four of their six feature films and it's easy to see why. Without changing his physical appearance remotely he is somehow able to be a complete chameleon in each of his roles. The way he holds himself, the way he moves, the way he approaches any given situation, each and every role he is a completely new person and it's extraordinary to watch because you don't see this guy acting at all. He is the true definition of an actor, one who strips away any semblance of himself and disappears entirely into each and every new performance he gives. You look at his work in L'Infant, this and the Dardennes next feature The Kid With A Bike and it's unbelievable the transformations he goes through.
One of the many interesting things here was the physicality of the film, how the muted emotions were able to manifest themselves in the physical moments such as Lorna slamming her head into a wall to prove that Claudy beats her or the raw and brazenly intimate sex scene. It's in these moments that the Dardennes' more authentic, quieter approach demonstrates it's true ability, making things that would seem ordinary in most films come as a shock and leave a lasting impact on the viewer.
I won't give anything away, but around the halfway point the film takes a turn that I wasn't expecting at all and completely through me for a loop. While the Dardennes had been traveling a more conventional path than usual, in the final act they take Lorna's journey to a decidedly unique place. Their originality shines bright in this final act, with scene after scene that had my jaw open simply over how innovative they had taken the story. I can't give anything away and ruin it for others, but Lorna's Silence began in a more traditional route than I had come to expect from the Dardenne brothers and ended up going somewhere even less conventional than we had seen from them before. Yet another tremendous achievement from two of the best writer/directors working today.
The Belgian film "Le silence de Lorna" was shown with the title
"Lorna's Silence" (2008) in the U.S. The movie is co-written and
co-directed by the brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.
The protagonist, Lorna, who is from Albania, has made a pact with the devil. It involves her marriage of convenience to a Belgian citizen, so that she can become a Belgian citizen. Once she becomes a citizen, the plan is to remove her husband. Then, in another marriage of convenience, Lorna, as a widow, can marry a Russian who in turn will become a Belgian citizen. Lorna wants to become a citizen so that she can obtain a loan to open a snack shop in Belgium. She wants the cash for startup money.
The plot is crafted by a Belgian cabdriver, who has no compunction about doing whatever it takes to move up in the gangster world. If Lorna's husband, a drug addict, has to be eliminated, that's not a problem.
So, everyone has dreams--of cash, of a snack shop, of citizenship, of underworld advancement.
The problem is that the drug addict, Claudy, is obviously in love with Lorna, and he's desperately trying to stay clean. Lorna has sympathy for this needy, suffering young man, and she'd like to adjust the pact with the devil to somehow spare him. However, what she learns is that the devil doesn't like people who want to change the pact.
Arta Dobroshi, as Lorna is, indeed, from the Balkans. (So, it's not a stretch for French speakers to accept her authentic accent.) Ms. Dobroshi is a superb actor, and gives a brilliant performance as a woman who is basically decent, but finds herself in a less-than-decent situation.
Jérémie Renier is excellent as her husband, Claudy. My wife and I admired his work before in another Dardenne brothers film--"La Promesse." It's really easy for Claudy to slip back into addiction, and it's really hard to stay clean, but he can do it if Lorna helps him.
The Dardenne brothers specialize in films where bad things happen, often to good people. The curator who introduced the film said that the Dardenes specialize in films that offer no hope, but I don't fully agree. They specialize in hard films where tragedy is never far away, but the films do hold out hope for redemption. This is not always enough, but it's better than nothing.
We saw the film on the large screen at the excellent Dryden Theatre in George Eastman House in Rochester. However, it should work well on DVD.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Dardenne brothers, those impressive Belgian filmmakers, are at it
again. This is a sort of a departure for them, although their keen
insight about people of a certain status has been shown before, perhaps
with better results. As it's their style, the film is devoid of music.
Their camera has a way to offer the viewer an insight on the character
he is seeing on the screen. Make no mistake, Luc and Jean-Pierre
Dardenne are at the top of their profession by presenting films that no
one else would dare to show, and above all, they make the viewer get
another take of life, the way they see it.
That said, "Le silence de Lorna" takes us to meet people that are so completely different, yet, not because of that, they don't feel real, on the contrary. The situation at hand involves a young Albanian woman, Lorna, who has married Claudy, a Belgian drug addict in order to get the citizenship papers. It is obvious their arrangement was purely a monetary one. Lorna, who has an Albanian boyfriend, Sokol, hangs out with the wrong crowd in Liege. Her association with them will not end happily.
Lorna's connection, the reptile Fabio and his underling Spirou pressure Lorna into marrying a Russian mafia bigwig so that he can get the Belgian passport. Lorna, like so many other immigrants, wants to save her money to open a small snack bar with Sokol. She is sidetracked by what Fabio wants her to do. In fact, Lorna is torn between trying to save Claudy, who faces a possible death, and get her dreams come true.
The film owes a lot to Arta Dobroshi, a dark haired beauty who is at the center of the story. Jeremie Renier, who has done wonderful turns for the director-brothers is seen as drug addict, Claudy. Fabio Rongione appears as Fabio.
We look forward to the brothers' next venture because their films always leaves the viewer richer knowing first hand about real people.
Having now seen it twice - what a terrific film! Arta Dobroshi is literally on screen for every single scene, and for all but a few seconds of the film: an amazing performance. When will we see more of her? The subject-matter is pretty grim, and not for those who like only romcoms and the like. I love all the Dardenne brothers films: Rosetta, The Son, and The Child, which rivals Lorna for their best in my view. Their usual trademarks are here, hand-held cameras following the characters round, usually in close-up; drab industrial surroundings (the town of Liege I believe); characters on the margins of society, including here a dodgy Russian with his interpreter. A great movie.
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