TIFF Review: Lorna’s Silence

Le Silence de Lorna (Lorna’s Silence)
107 Minutes // Belgium-France // Diaphana Films – Sony Picture Classics
dir. Jean-Pierre et Luc Dardenne
Sunday, September 7th, 2008. Scotiabank Theater 1.
North American Premiere @ the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival
Masters Program.
starring: Arta Dobrosi, Jeremie Renier & Fabrizio Rongione

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne: two of the most influential directors of the past decade enter 2008 with their fifth feature length film in Lorna’s Silence (le silence de lorna). Masters of realistic cinema, they take no further approaches in creating this film, as they’ve long mastered their craft. Though it does have a few little additions that are very noticeable to a Dardenne fan, the formula remains the same. With their handheld cinematography and stupendous atmosphere, the Dardenne’s create their best film to date. Containing some of the most suspenseful scenes, perhaps the most realistic dialogue and just being a generally ill intentioned story from beginning to end, Lorna’s Silence takes the cake as the Dardenne’s most harrowing work to date.

The plot: A woman (Lorna) is married to an off-beat and neurotic man (Claudy). For the first half an hour or so, we learn that these two have strange martial issues; he asks to be locked inside their apartment when she is gone, he asks to only have a certain, limited amount of money at any given time. We soon get the impression that Claudy is a sketchy fellow. Then we learn that Claudy is a drug addict, but not your run-of-the-mill drug addict, but one whose urges are so strong that he actually has to be bound to things to keep from returning to his familiar, mentally hazy state. But alas, the Dardenne’s are much more complicated in this tale! There’s a turn! Lorna doesn’t love Claudy, but is rather working with the mob (whom Claudy owes money) to kill Claudy. As an added bonus, she will receive Claudy’s money when he passes away from natural causes (or so that’s what the coroner would most likely say). Herein lies the story. The film is about Lorna’s silence – can she save Claudy? or is she in too deep? Lorna’s Silence also features one of the most revolutionary (well, not necessarily a revolutionary event, but a very bold idea) characters that I’ve seen displayed on screen in my life time. Lorna is such a unique character because she starts off as a sleazy woman thinking “money takes precedence over a man’s life” but her mentality on the matter flip-flops erratically, even when the main situation concludes and another one is brought up. She isn’t an anti-hero, an antagonist or a protagonist for any period lengthier than 10 minutes at a time. She’s just a person with unknown intentions – Lorna is an original type of character. With intense dialogue, stark plotting and vibrant editing, the Dardenne’s create some of the most memorable work of the past decade in Lorna’s Silence.

As usual in Dardenne features, the acting in the film exceeds brilliant. Whether it be yet another unknown leading female in Arta Dobroshi turning a painfully honest performance as the titular character; one of the most conniving and ill-willedly charged characters in Fabio, played to perfection by Fabrizio Rongione; or the highlight of the film being Jeremie Renier’s performance as Claudy, who does such an unbelievable job that you’ll have issues believing that Renier himself wasn’t a junkie at one point in time. In all seriousness, Renier will win the European Film Award for Best Supporting Actor when the year is through – that is how powerful his performance is. If you don’t like the Dardennes, but love naturalistic performances then see this film. You may not like the product as a whole, but you’ll certainly take something from it in terms of acting prowess. ****/****

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