The Dostoevskys of Belgian film
by Matthieu Reynaert, J-M. Vlaeminckx, Cinergie.be
- Cinergie met with Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne shortly after their return from Cannes, where they were honoured with the award for Best Screenplay (their fifth prize after four selections)
Cinergie: Your new film, Lorna’s Silence [+see also:
interview: Arta Dobroshi
interview: Arta Dobroshi
interview: Jean-Pierre et Luc Dardenne
interview: Olivier Bronckart
film profile], is characterised by a very understated directorial approach. We get the impression that since Rosetta your camera has steadily been “calming” down. In what way does this reflect your intentions as directors?
Luc Dardenne: It’s true that we adopt an understated approach, but this film’s storyline is, without doubt, the most complex we have ever written. Lorna is surrounded by four men and each represents a different story. It’s also true that the camerawork is calmer. That’s because we wanted, from the outset, to observe Lorna, not follow her movements, as was the case for Rosetta.
You gradually reveal information as the film unfolds. How did you manage to withhold information from the audience and to what extent do you risk losing the viewer?
Jean-Pierre Dardenne: We didn’t want to lose the viewer but instead create a sense of anticipation and encourage the audience to ask questions. It’s the first time that we’ve made a film driven by suspense and we played with the rules of the genre, notably by using jump cuts, which were there from the start.
Examined closely, the plot is worthy of any US thriller. It deals with the mafia, false identity papers, marriages of convenience and murder, etc. You nonetheless succeed in asserting your own distinctive outlook. How did you manage to stay within the realm of a certain cinema of the real?
Luc: One of the most important aspects is that Lorna and Fabio do not conform to the stereotyped image of the film noir heroine and gangster. Lorna and her boyfriend are immigrants who yearn for a normal life. We can’t speak of Lorna as a femme fatale; we show her leading an ordinary, everyday life. There are however elements of genre film in the aesthetic composition: the night, the city and the rain…
Each character is distinguished by a prop or an item of clothing; for instance Lorna’s jacket and red trousers, Fabio’s taxi and Claudy’s envelope…
Jean-Pierre: Some were more obvious than others. Fabio’s taxi was there from the outset; it’s his status and his home, and it took on even more significance during the shoot. Claudy’s envelope is the prop that symbolises the relations between Lorna and himself. As for the costumes, after a month’s work, we decided that Lorna would have a skirt and two pairs of trousers, including the red one, which makes her instantly recognisable when she walks around the city!
Luc: She was a bit more shapely as well, so we asked her to lose weight. The settings, the walls, the colours…All this is carefully studied and thought-out, it takes time. Even the floor of the apartment!
Is immigration one of the themes of the film, or is it simply a vehicle for telling your character’s story?
Luc: Obviously we’re not drawing parallels between immigration and “the underworld”, but the Russian and Albanian mafia do exist. Our heroine is part of this world, but at the outset she’s an economic refugee. To her, Liège is paradise. It’s possible to find work, she makes marriage plans and saves money to buy a snack bar, etc. Unfortunately, she finds herself at the centre of a scheme which is at the expense of someone who is considered to be of little worth, because he is a junkie.
The film explores a theme found throughout your works: guilt.
Jean-Pierre: In a word, I’d say that this theme interests us because it’s when we feel guilty that we become more human. In all our films, it’s thanks to feelings of guilt that the character breaks his or her routine and changes.
Luc: But I’d say the idea of guilt, of what we’re prepared to do in order to guarantee our place in the sun, has become simply a human question in our society. But take note that, for us, there is nothing morbid in this; guilt is not narcissistic but enables us to work towards something better.
To see the video of the interview, click here.