Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lorna’s Silence – Dardenne Brothers (2008)


The latest film from the Dardenne Brothers is an understated study of alienation that reminded me a lot of Remains of the Day and Casablanca. (Not to give this film delusions of grandeur.)





"Lorna's Silence" starts with our heroine, Lorna, who is a profoundly unhappy woman. We don't know what her situation is, but she exudes miser in every frame she appears in.


Lorna has married a Belgian junkie for a green-card and the plan, as it's slowly revealed through the course of the film, involves killing the junkie with an overdose and side-stepping the whole mess of a divorce.

The plot is incidental, though. In fact, we’re not ever fully sure what the story is. We know the plot involves a green-card and a Russian who for some reason needs to establish residency in Belgium.

He's a very ominous figure. We only hear to him referred to as "The Russian."


The focus of the film is the isolation of Lorna.

Slowly, she finds herself attached to Claudy, her junkie fake-husband and gets to work on a plan to save his life. Of course, she can not tell him why she is doing all of this.

She doesn’t want Claudy to know his life is in danger and she stays silent.
Lorna is so stoic that it’s near impossible to tell just how deep her feelings for Claudy go or how they’re progressing until finally, one night, her actions leave no room for misunderstanding.
This is the first spark of happiness or even humanity we have seen in Lorna. This junkie has actually brought her to life.

There is an unspeakably beautiful moment that you’ll miss if you blink. It has no significance and only last a second or two, but it’s so tremendously effective.

Lorna and Claudy, her recovering, junkie, fake-husband, have just left a locksmith/pawnshop.

She is off to work and he is going to ride his bike all day to keep his mind off his withdrawal.

They split up and he starts to ride away.

Lorna, who’s been pretty cold to Claudy so far and showed no emotion at all, until the previous night, and is now falling for him, spontaneously turns and chases after him for a few yards.

It is a desperately joyous little moment as she runs after him for two seconds before turning to walk her own way.


It last three or four seconds, but it says so much about the transformation of her feelings toward this man she just met and had thought of, only days before as expendable.

And the way that The Dardenne Brothers cut from this burst of unexpected joy to the aftermath of heartbreak reminds me of what sets these filmmakers apart from others and why I loved Rosetta so much.

(I’ll be re-watching that very soon, I think.)





Of course, people who build up walls around themselves do so for defensive purposes and once those come down, Lorna is incredibly vulnerable.

Her strength was in the fact that nobody knew her.

The film ends ambiguously, but if you ask yourself, ‘What’s likely to be the next thing to happen to Lorna?’ you probably won’t come up with a happy answer.


Isolation, that front that makes people think you don't need anybody else, might make you look strong, but it's a lie.

In reality, it just makes you lonely and weak.

That is what the Dardenne Brothers are saying here and the message comes across beautifully and breaks your heart.

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