Le Silence de Lorna

Hard Choices

September 9, 2008By Heidi EllisonFilm

With Le Silence de Lorna (Lorna’s Silence), brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have made another of their morally complex films about marginalized people coping with the situations they find themselves in.

These are no hapless victims of a cruel society, however, as in many of Ken Loach’s films, but people who deal with the problems life throws at them by making choices, some of which are morally dubious or even downright criminal.

The fraternal writing/directing team knows how to gently unfold a story and keep suspense alive without taking their story in the obvious direction – just when you think you see where the story is headed, the action shifts and takes an unexpected turn.

The film jumps right in to the situation, opening on Lorna (Arta Dobroshi), a pretty (in an ordinary way) young woman who speaks French with an accent. She is being inexplicably rude to Claudy (Jérémie Renier), the frail-looking young man she shares an apartment with.

We are gradually given to understand that Lorna is an Albanian immigrant who has paid Claudy, a heroin addict, to marry her so that she can get a Belgian passport. Strung-out Claudy keeps trying and failing to go straight, while Lorna and her accomplices wait for him to OD so that she can marry a Russian man who is willing to pay large amounts of cash for a Belgian wife (why he doesn’t just pay a Belgian woman to marry him is unclear).

If Claudy doesn’t manage to die on his own, the plotters plan to help him along once he and Lorna have been married long enough to convince the Belgian authorities that their marriage is authentic. Lorna and her real boyfriend, Sokol (Alban Ukaj), plan to use her share of the money to buy a snack bar and start a new life together. Claudy, however, throws a monkey wrench into the works by getting serious about quitting drugs

To reveal any more of the plot would be to spoil the pleasure of watching this realistic film unfold, but suffice it to say that Lorna’s efforts to maintain her emotional distance from the pathetic Claudy eventually fail.

Although the film’s ending is a bit hard to swallow, it is not outside the realm of possibility.

Le Silence de Lorna is an absorbing, thought-provoking examination of the complicated interplay between exterior constraints (as an Albanian, Lorna is an illegal alien with no right to live in Belgium), the choices we make (she accepts the arrangements for the fake marriage and even the planned violence) and material, emotional and psychological factors. There are no purely good or bad guys in this film – Lorna initially goes along wholeheartedly with the plot, and even the taxi driver named Fabio (Fabrizio Rongione), who put the scheme together, has a humane side.

The acting is uniformly excellent. Renier once again portrays the kind of low-life character he excels at (he played the skuzzy skinhead who gets shot in the eye in Martin McDonagh’s excellent In Bruges and the sociopath who sells his own baby in L’Enfant, the Dardenne brothers’ award-winning 2005 film), to the point that he risks being typecast.


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