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the Silence of Lorna PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sheila Seacroft   
09 12 2008

ImageDirected by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

Much admired for their austere slow moving portrayals of the inarticulate and disadvantaged on the fringes of affluent society, the Dardenne brothers have come in for a bit of stick from many critics for this more mainstream film which is far more conventionally constructed. Whereas little actually ‘happens' in your standard Dardennes film, here part of the pleasure is the unfolding of the plot and genuine development in the characters' sensibilities as they take us through an action-packed and fairly complicated narrative in exemplary fashion. And it's actually a terrific thriller.

Lorna is an Albanian living on the margins of society in a scruffy area of Liege. She lives in a curious detached way with a junkie whom she clearly despises and has some kind of power over. What is going on? The truth of her situation soon reveals itself, as the violent and complex underworld of illegal immigration is laid bare. Playing LornaImage newcomer Arta Dobroshi shines as a complex enigmatic character who is a mass of contradictions, a strong and ruthless woman driven by her modest vision of the good life, getting a foothold in the west by setting up a small bar with her Albanian lover.

But getting what she plans is not as straightforward as she imagines, as she surprises herself with decent impulses. Her moral strength leads her to make considerable sacrifices, including some punishing physical ones, and her realisation that in the grubby world she reluctantly inhabits she has no real power, is almost too much for her to bear. Hand held camera trails her surprising moments of happiness in the mean streets and her increasingly desperate progress towards redemption in an immoral world. The ending is ambiguous - is Lorna mad, or has the film entered the realm of fantasy along with her?

Far from being a failure, this film shows that the Dardennes can use a more accessible kind of film to convey their humanism without compromising their rigorous standards, and it should be celebrated.

Seen at London Film Festival, Odeon West End, 27 October 2008

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