Rosetta (Dardennes, 1999)

The films of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne all depict characters arriving at forked paths, having to choose between apprenticeship and rebellion, the promise of stability and growth within a predetermined system and a certain feral, almost instinctual resistance to the social and economic contradictions of rural living. No matter the narrative or milieu, both experiences reveal contrasting forms of survival with wildly different consequences and outcomes. This tense thematic dichotomy bleeds through the Dardenne brothers’ stifling handheld camera aesthetic, one where off-screen sound and jarring physical movement strictly defines the borders of the modern world. Ultimately, their films delicately balance chaos and order, unspoken tenuousness and silent expression.

Full Review for Slant Magazine

Le Silence de Lorna (Dardenne, Dardenne, 2008)

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As the title would suggest, Le Silence de Lorna (Lorna’s Silence) concerns itself with exploring the inner turmoil of Lorna (Arta Dobroshi), an Albanian immigrant living in Belgium who happens to be embroiled in a fake marriage scheme. The muddy plot involving Russian gangsters and Belgium hustlers evolves at a snails pace, but the Dardennes are more concerned with the moral ambiguity inside Lorna after she helps double-cross her puppet-husband (Jeremie Regnier) for a future with another man.

The Dardennes once again manipulate time throughout, sometimes jumping days with a single edit throwing the audience into catch-up mode. But this makes their films challenging, and what continuously draws me back to their fractured morality plays. Time and space are never secure, and in Lorna’s case, constantly changing from the inside out. Lorna’s torment produces deep guilt, but doesn’t reveal itself until the convolution of the outside world subsides, and the silence of the woods allows us to finally understand her actions.

Le Silence de Lorna lives and breathes with Arta Dobroshi’s performance, a central mission statement against the obviously male-dominated narrative and environment. For most of the film, Lorna acts as a pinball between one male hierarchy to the next, a singular figure pushed to the brink by greed and manipulation. While Le Silence de Lorna may not be as masterful as The Son or La Promesse at constructing tragedy out of the small details in life, it still succeeds in revealing the subtle shifts toward madness inherent in the process.