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DID YOU READ

Cannes 08: The Dardennes on “The Silence of Lorna”

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05222008_dardennes1.jpgBy Erica Abeel

Ever since “The Promise” in 1996, the prospect of a new film from Belgian siblings Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne has been cause for rejoicing. Impeccably constructed, uncompromising and emotionally searing, the Dardenne brothers’ films give voice to a population often despised or ignored: illegal aliens, slumlords, corrupt officials and smalltime criminals. To their characters the brothers bring a compassionate view born of the understanding this underclass has, in part, been created by society’s higher-ups. And though the pair might deny it, their films also suggest an ingrained Christian vision through insisting on the transformative possibility of the most debased being.

“The Silence of Lorna,” their latest portrait, which premiered in Cannes, has failed to elicit the rapturous response received by some of the earlier work, such as the 2005 Palme d’Or winner “The Child.” Yet despite an exposition that some found lengthy, the Dardennes bring great resonance to this fable of a young Albanian immigrant caught in a terrible dilemma who struggles to redeem herself. As in “The Promise,” the film focuses on the machinations forced on illegals hoping to grab a morsel of the world’s wealth — in this case through fake marriages for citizenship. This time the brothers have placed their camera in the more gentrified city of Liège, rather than their grimy industrial hometown of Seraing. Lorna has become a Belgian citizen through her sham marriage to junkie Claudy (Dardenne regular Jérémie Renier). A local mobster who engineered the union is planning to kill Claudy with a staged overdose so Lorna can remarry a Russian mafioso. But when Claudy threatens to start using drugs again, the two have passionate sex and form a sudden bond.

I got chance to speak to Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne in the Unifrance pavilion following the premiere of their film Happily for journos, Luc is forthcoming and responsive; Jean-Pierre is famously less so, often parrying questions that he seems to regard as, well, unanswerable.

Where do your characters originate? Did Lorna have a source in real life?

Someone among our acquaintances told us the story of a real-life Lorna, who made a false marriage — but we took her story in a different direction.

05222008_dardennes2.jpgHow do you apportion the directing of your films?

We discuss the script. We both do the casting. On the set we work solely with the actors for a long time, without any crew. Then the crew and D.P. come on board, and one of us goes to the monitor. Once we take a shot, we discuss it in front of the monitor and evaluate it. Then we discuss it with the D.P. We both edit. It’s really not more complicated than if there were only one person.

Do you rehearse a lot before shooting?

Yes, we do — so we can be at our most free when we shoot. We’re free when we’re very familiar with the work. In fact, the rehearsals are the best period of the whole business — le plus beau moment. We don’t discuss the psychology of the characters. It’s something more instinctual. Rehearsals are like soccer camp. Then when we shoot, it’s the championship.

The first shot of the film is bills being handed over at the bank. Could you talk a bit about the omnipresence of money in your films?

Money rules the relationships between us, and it changes things. Money gives you the means to change your life — and permits the characters to alter their lives. In other films money is treated as something shameful. For us it’s just there. Money can also permit moral behavior. When Lorna opens a bank account to deposit money for Claudy’s child — her unborn child — it’s beautiful money.

I found something in Lorna’s transformation rather mysterious. Through much of the exposition she seems irritated by strung-out Claudy and wants only to blow him off. What triggers the change in her feelings for him?

Not one thing alone. When she starts to help Claudy — for instance helps him get up from the floor — she starts to change as a human being. She undresses to keep him from leaving [in pursuit of drugs]; she makes an extreme gesture… and also feels desire. Claudy shows her he can stop and she admires that, and she feels guilt that they plan to kill him.

But bottom line, her gesture toward him is mysterious and can’t be explained — in fact, it mystifies her, too. It’s as mysterious to her as it is to us.

05222008_dardennes3.jpgWas the whole script planned? Or were there changes as you went along?

We tend to augment the physical aspects, add gestures when we shoot and reduce dialogue. And the actors bring something of themselves to it, the shoot is organic, and changes with the circumstances. Even so, the film you see is very close to the script.

There’s an enigma at the heart of this film: is Lorna’s baby real or imaginary? Of course the doctors say there’s no child. Yet the question remains…

We first had the idea for the imaginary pregnancy when we decided not to show Claudy’s corpse. This absence for Lorna is filled by the baby, though the baby is an absence, too. You know, if you want to believe she’s pregnant, you can. An interesting thing: even with an added scene in which a doctor shows her she’s not pregnant, audiences persist in believing she is. I think it’s because the viewer wants her to redeem herself and protect a new life. She was careless with Claudy’s life, but she’ll be careful with the life of the baby, which represents the future and hope.

[Photo: Arta Dobroshi as Lorna; Jérémie Renier and Dobroshi; the brothers Dardenne – “The Silence of Lorna,” Gemini Film GmbH & Co. KG, 2008]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…