Le Silence de Lorna

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Le Silence de Lorna (2008) continues Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s interest in constructing character studies of people living on society’s margins. As is characteristic of their work, the film takes a social realist approach toward its aesthetic in terms of both production and sound design. Much like their masterpiece Rosetta (1999), Le Silence de Lorna centers on the life of a young woman. At once the Dardenne brothers draw upon the traditions of women’s films and kitchen sink dramas to weave a sort of post-modern tableau in service of the film’s central character Lorna (Arta Dobroshi).

These portraits act as political critiques for the Dardenne brothers, which places them within the classicist school of filmmaking. Lorna becomes a means of examining immigrant life in Belgium while her husband, Claudy (Jérémie Renier), is used to explore society’s treatment of drug abuse. Le Silence de Lorna and the earlier le Fils (2002) signify a move towards a more literary approach by the Dardennes. Lorna’s scheming to get a quick divorce from Claudy has all of the stylistic hallmarks of a James M. Cain novel.

Ultimately what sets a Dardenne picture apart from most is their ability to create and sustain an atmosphere. Both Rosetta and Le Silence de Lorna are films built around an escalating sense of dread. Each heroine is inevitably drawn towards her own destruction and all we the audience can do is watch. The political messaging of these films falls into the background working subliminally on the spectator as the anticipation of doom becomes more and more overwhelming.

Though social-realism may be the style of Le Silence de Lorna, the technique often draws upon the narrative devices most commonly associated with the thriller. The climax of Le Silence de Lorna feels like Desert Fury (1947) as Lorna realizes she’s about to be murdered. Le Silence de Lorna ultimately succeeds as a melting pot for all of these cinematic tropes and remains one of the Dardenne brothers’ greatest films.