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Lorna's Silence

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Reviews are coming in from Cannes regarding the Dardennes brothers' new film, Lorna's Silence.

As far as I'm concerned, those two can do no wrong. (By the way, the closest I've seen to their work by an American director is Ramin Bahrani's Chop Shop, which didn't make it out of New York. I beg of you, see this film.)


Personally I think that grammar is a way to attain beauty.

— Muriel Barbery

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Reviews are coming in from Cannes regarding the Dardennes brothers' new film, Lorna's Silence.

As far as I'm concerned, those two can do no wrong. (By the way, the closest I've seen to their work by an American director is Ramin Bahrani's Chop Shop, which didn't make it out of New York. I beg of you, see this film.)

I would if I could! I will ... eventually.

Some of those Cannes reviews are negative. I wonder if the brothers' other films have been greeted with the same sort of mixed notices, or if this represents a bit of a turn in terms of early critical opinion on their work.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I just watched L'Enfant last night with my wife (and just read the entire thread on it) so I guess I better get on the ball watching the rest of their films.


winstonavich.wordpress.com

the blog of boring old winston hearn.

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I've finally seen Lorna's Silence, and it's a stunner.

There's a fascinating choice that the Dardennes make halfway through the film that really impressed me. I really hope you experience before you read about it. That's all I'm going to say on that point.

Of their five films it has the most mysterious, puzzling conclusion. As the hard lines and claustrophobia-inducing environments of the film's urban setting are left behind, and we step into imagery that suggests a dark fairy tale where a big bad wolf might be hiding behind any tree. I'll be very interested to hear your interpretation of the closing moment. It felt to me as if I had to suddenly step back and reconsider what the story is really about.

As usual, I was impressed by J

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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SO excited to see your post, Jeff, that I haven't even read it beyond the first sentence -- which, having just seen the film two nights ago, I agree with wholeheartedly! I watched it two nights ago and was stunned. I told the rep who gave me the DVD that I wouldn't be reviewing it but thought, next to "Summers Hours," it was the best film I'd seen this year, easily.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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FWIW, Thom Andersen's examination of the film in Film Comment is posted online.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Stanely Kauffmann calls it a film "worth seeing," but says it's only fault is that "is that, though it is very good, it is not up to their best." I've heard enough people say this to be inclined to believe that it's in some way objectively true, but subjectively, I responded this film more strongly than I have to some of the Dardennes' other work. That's not to say my impression of the film won't weaken -- or strengthen -- with subsequent viewings.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Kauffmann sums it up:

A sharp, morally incisive account of the way that citizenship-through-marriage is now exploited in Belgium.

What a spectacularly insufficient summary. This may be what *happens* in the film, to some extent, but it certainly is not what the film is about.

It's a very subjective question: Is this up to their best? Personally, I find the film every bit as gripping, and in some ways even more thought-provoking, than their previous work. The Son remains my favorite, but this seemed like a braver piece of work, taking bigger risks and concluding on more mysterious note.

I wrote a piece for Image about it, and it took me all weekend. I wrote about 3500 words for a 1000-word assignment, and felt I'd barely begun to address what's going on in the film. Then I had to cut that back to the proper word count, and I felt like I was hacking off my own limbs. There's no way to "review" this film succinctly without ignoring a great deal of what's happening in its pregnant pauses and loaded "silences."

It's worth noting, though, that I can't show Lorna's Silence to the same large audience that I've shared The Son with. This time, there's a scene of explicit R-rated sex that, while perfectly appropriate and necessary, I'd consider to be too much for the younger viewers who would benefit from The Son.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I'm partial to La Promesse, myself, but yeah, I agree. I've been thinking about the title of the film, which you allude to you in your post above. I'm not sure what to make of the title -- maybe it's screamingly obvious, but the film snuck up on me and had to be returned the next day. I barely had time to think about the details, not to mention watch it again for further illumination. I'm seriously considering going to see it again when it releases here locally in another week or two.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Stanley Kauffmann lauds the filmmakers before throwing cold water on

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I found this to be another excellent effort from the Dardennes. The film goes in a direction I was not expecting from a typical crime story, but it opens up interesting avenues of emotional exploration. I thought the inscrutability and lack of emotion given by Lorna in the first part of the film fits the bleak post-industrial setting of the city,

where the scam involved human relationships being trafficked in money. I think Lorna's awakening mirrors the change of setting from the city to the woods later in the film. A sense of humanity returns.

I think

Lorna's belief that she is pregnant is a desperate attempt to find a shred of humanity within her, to find something real outside of the machine-like existence that crime leads one into.

The final moment of the film is haunting and powerful:

Lorna is talking the baby that appears to be just a figment of her imagination, but her emotions are so real, I couldn't help but wish it was a real baby. A moving look at the emotional consequences of the choice of a criminal lifestyle, while offering hope of a moral redemption

Edited by Crow

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My favorite shot of this year is right after Claudy buys the bike. She is going to work and he rides away, but she turns and runs after him briefly, laughing a little bit.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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It really is, uncharacteristically so. I did a double-take the first time around because it is actually playful. And then:

Perhaps the worst moment. I still have a hard time with that big edit right here in the middle.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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After watching this again, I have become really conflicted. I think the bulk of the film may be my favorite of the Dardennes so far. Critics that didn't like it claimed that Lorna's Silence is an aberration in that it lacks the same social conscience of the other films. I don't think this is true at all, considering the entire storyline is predicated on the fact that these characters are forced to do desperate things for money because they have no other choice. They are immigrants trying to carve out their own space.

I think the reason I like the film so much is not that the social conscience has taken a back seat, but that instead of that being the focus they draft a very emotionally complex storyline on top of it. It is far more storied and psychological than La promesse, which until this had been my favorite. Rosetta and Le fils dig pretty deep. But Lorna is a very complicated character, and the experience of these complications seem more the point of the film than the experience of her social location.

But then, I am really put off by the end. It ends a lot like Varda's Vagabond, but without enough background. I don't think the transition holds together well enough. And then the crescendo of music puzzles me even further.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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It is far more storied and psychological than La promesse, which until this had been my favorite.

I'll need one more viewing, but as you might have been able to ascertain from my earlier comments, I'm right there with you on Lorna's Silence, al though I found the ending maybe the best part of the film.

This is number 2 on my 2009 year-end list, which, of course, I haven't put together yet. ;)

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I'll have to pop it in again, but my impression is that I like the film, and I like the end. Just not together.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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I have to say that I was a little flummuxed by this film, and continue to be so. The change in direction alluded to didn't work for me, it really did feel like two separate films and I felt that the abrupt middle should have come much earlier on. Prior to that, not very much happens and the usual Dardennes approach of action in inaction, expression in silence just didn't work for me this time around. I'm not sure why, I'm not sure what was missing, though I know that I didn't believe that she was a quiet person; she was vibrant, expressive, opinionated, intelligent, rebellious. And yet, we are expected to believe that she could be easily manipulated, threatened, and naive. I also didn't buy the swings between her complete emotional detachment to total emotional engagement. This happened several times and I was left more than a little incredulous on each occasion.

SPOILERS ALERT!

Having said that, I thought the ending was brave and ingenious, though I'm not entirely sure it worked. Again, the jump is too abrupt, the distance between her practical survivalist character and this version of her that is immersed in a self-delusion was too great. Having said that, I completely agree with Crow: the Dardennes do a wonderful job of making you want that baby to be real. I decided that it was, it was for her and that was enough for it to be real for me. In itself, the idea is great - a psycho-physical manifestation of guilt, the haunting of past deeds. I just don't think that the realisation lived up to its promise, and it was in danger of verging on a hysterical presentation of a victimised woman, which is not what she is shown to be in the first half of the film.

Anyway, it's still a really brave film and I think it's a good film. It just doesn't quite manage to pull all the pieces together.

Edited by gigi

"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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Yes. Which is odd in that I expect their films to be seamless garments when it comes to emplotment. This one fidgets too much with dramatic moments. The one in the middle I think is the best edit in their canon. The one at the end, not so much.


"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Lorna's Silence on Region 1 DVD Jan.5, 2010.

It's been announced available at Netflix then too!

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Nick Davis:

Something about the Dardennes' Lorna's Silence felt to me as though the revered brothers were at last feeling their way separately through each narrative and psychological beat of the story, rather than holding throughout to an aesthetic structure that speaks more holistically to the spiritual or sociological truths they have already mapped onto the entire tale, which is how I felt about L'Enfant and, even more so, about The Son. I felt much closer in this case to a worldview and a moment-to-moment experience that approximated Lorna's, even though the movie doesn't literally inhabit the perspective of its main figure any more than the others do. That's why I gave Lorna my highest grade for any Dardennes movie, but then I keep reading lots of other folks who found this to be a kind of plateau film for them, perpetuating without advancing their style, if not an actual step down. Different strokes, perhaps, or maybe I really am missing some boat. I'm certainly intrigued to go look, though it still says something that Lorna is the film that has finally motivated me to look back at all their features in sequence.

Wow. There's something to this.

It's in this line: "...as though the revered brothers were at last feeling their way separately through each narrative and psychological beat of the story, rather than holding throughout to an aesthetic structure that speaks more holistically to the spiritual or sociological truths they have already mapped onto the entire tale..."

You know, I get that. Lorna's Silence did give me that rare sense the the directors were not so much in control as they were exploring... following the story instead of inflicting it. It's as if they are as mystified by the ending and we are.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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