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Lorna’s Silence
(Le silence de Lorna)
Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne
Screenplay: Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne
Stars: Arta Dobroshi (Lorna), Jérémie Renier (Claudy Moreau), Fabrizio Rongione (Fabio), Alban Ukaj (Sokol), Morgan Marinne (Spirou), Olivier Gourmet (L'inspecteur), Anton Yakovlev (Andrei), Grigori Manukov (Kostia), Mireille Bailly (Monique Sobel), Stéphanie Gob (Nurse), Laurent Caron (Commissaire), Baptiste Somin (Morgue Attendant), Alexandre Trocky (Doctor)
MPAA Rating: PG
Year of Release: 2008
Country: Belgium / France / Italy / Germany
Lorna’s Silence DVD
Lorna’s Silence In Lorna’s Silence (Le silence de Lorna), filmmaking brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne once again take their unadorned, documentary-like approach to a dark back corner of European society, in this case the lucrative trade of sham marriages for citizenship. One might accuse the Dardennes of treading the same ground over and over if they weren’t so impressive in their craft and genuine in their humanity. And impressive the film is; although filled with bleak scenarios and characters who are defined primarily by their various levels of desperation, Lorna’s Silence presents a moving portrait emotional and social awakening.

Lorna (newcomer Arta Dobroshi) is a young Albanian woman who has just recently been granted citizenship in Belgium after marrying a Belgian heroin junkie named Claudy (Jérémie Renier, who played the memorable lead role in the Dardennes’ previous feature, 2005’s Palme d’Or-winning L’Enfant). Lorna dreams of quitting her dreary day job in a laundry and opening a snack bar with her boyfriend Sokol (Alban Ukaj), a migrant worker and fellow Albanian émigré who is constantly absent due to his work. Lorna’s marriage to Claudy, which was set up by Fabio (Fabrizio Rongione), a mobster whose cover job is driving a taxi cab, is her ticket to financial and social empowerment. The plan is for Lorna to then marry a Russian who is eager for Belgian citizenship for reasons that are never explained (we can only guess that they are nefarious). The problem is that, in order for Lorna to marry the Russian, she must get out of her marriage with Claudy, who Fabio is planning to kill and disguise the murder as an overdose. Even though her “marriage” to Claudy is really a business deal, Lorna begins to feel for him (that is, see him as human and not just “the junkie”) and the fate that awaits him. As a result, she tries to get a divorce, but Fabio is against it because her marriage to the Russian will be more legitimate in the eyes of the law if she is a recent widow, rather than a recent divorcee.

Of course, that is just the beginning of the story, and the less you know about it going in, the better. Suffice it to say that the crux of the story hinges on Lorna’s relationship with Claudy, which starts as a simple convenience for both (she needs citizenship and he needs money), but gradually evolves into something deeper, which could put both of them in danger. Yet, that is only half of the film, as the second act is saved for the fall-out, which again is not anything like you might expect it to be. The Dardennes are masters at constantly nudging their narratives in unexpected directions without creating the feeling that the story has been “constructed” (Lorna’s Silence won the screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival last year, but the film doesn’t feel “written” at all). You can imagine that the same story in different hands could have easily been turned into a straightforward genre piece, either a thriller or a romance (or both), but the Dardennes resist the obvious path, focusing instead on the textures and rhythms of their characters’ complex lives and moral dilemmas without belaboring the film with explanations and backstories. The perceived naturalness of the narrative is enhanced by their subtle, unobtrusive camera, which is always just a little shaky, but never distracting and attention-grabbing.

Those looking for easy answers are advised to look someplace else, as Lorna’s Silence leaves us primarily with questions, both philosophically and more literally in terms of what actually happens in the film (the Dardennes love to leave potentially crucial events off-screen, which adds to the tension and also reinforces our identification with Lorna). Regardless of what the questions are, they are the kind that gnaw and persist and keep you thinking about the film long after it’s over, which is perhaps one of the highest compliments one can pay.

Lorna’s Silence DVD

Aspect Ratio1.85:1
Audio French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Subtitles English
  • U.S. theatrical trailer
  • DistributorThe Criterion Collection
    Release DateJanuary 5, 2010

    Given that Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s style is generally unadorned and lacking in aesthetic flourish, their films are not the kind you’re going to use to show off your home theater system. However, Sony has given us a very nice, clean anamorphic widescreen presentation of Lorna’s Silence that maintains the film’s intended low-key look. Colors are fairly drab and dull throughout, with a few bright flourishes (like Lorna’s red sweater) thrown in here and there. Much of the film takes place at night, and the transfer handles black levels and shadow detail quite well. It also does well in the bright, flatly lit scenes inside Lorna’s apartment, at a hospital, and in other locations. Although the film’s soundtrack is composed almost entirely dialogue with no nondiegetic music (save the very last shot), the Dolby Digital 5.1 track still makes effective use of the surround speakers for ambient and atmospheric sounds that help bring you into the characters’ world.
    The only supplement is the film’s U.S. theatrical trailer, which is presented in anamorphic widescreen.

    Overall Rating: (3.5)

    Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick

    All images copyright © Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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