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Belgium 2008
Directed by
Jean-Pierre Dardenne / Luc Dardenne
105 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Lorna's Silence

Although Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne remain within the “social realist" tradition and maintain their characteristic cinema verité style with this film, Lorna’s Silence with its complex plot and thriller-like form is a step towards more conventional narrative cinema.

Newcomer Arta Dobroshi plays a young Albanian woman who has married a junkie, Claudy (Jérémie Renier, the Dardennes' regular male lead since their 1heir 1996 film The Promise), solely to get Belgian citizenship. What she really wants to do is open up a café with her lover (Alban Ukaj). In order to do this she’s working for Fabio (Fabrizio Rongione) who arranges similar marriages for anyone with the money. When Fabio arranges for Claudy to die of an overdose, so that she can marry a Russian gangster, Lorna initially doesn’t want to be part of it but acquiesces out of self-interest.

Although the mechanics of the story are not easy to follow, one can't help but feel unnecessarily so, the film works on two levels, Firstly, and this is typical of the Dardenne's work, insofar as it is a reflection of a real social problem, that being, as with The Promise, the underworld of illegal immigration Secondly, for its performances. Renier is frighteningly convincing as a strung-out junkie but it is Dobroshi who is on screen virtually throughout the entire film (and who had learn French for it) who holds our attention, and not just for her compelling photogenicity.

When we first encounter Lorna she appears to be ruthlessly ambitious, the smallness of her dream notwithstanding, but once she starts to become involved with Claudy and realizes the moral bankruptcy of the men with whom she has made her pact in order to realize that dream, she makes a bold attempt to change the course of her life. No doubt thanks to the Dardennes' guidance Dobroshi, in an understated but affecting performance, brings home the steely resolve which drives Lorna through her change of heart as she changes from being a passive tool in the hands of evil to an active agent of her own destiny.  

The film's equivocal ending may not please everyone but the journey it takes us on is an emotionally gripping one.

FYI: The extract from Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 32 that starts at the end of the final scene and plays over the credits was the time that the Dardennes used non-diegetic music in one of their films. 

DVD Extras: Separate interviews with Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and Arta Dobroshi and the theatrical trailer.

Available from: Madman




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