Le Silence de Lorna (Lorna’s Silence)
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, directors, producers and scriptwriters. Starring: Arta Dobroshoi (Lorna), Jérémie Renier (Claudy), Fabrizio Rongione (Fabio), Alban Ukaj (Sokol), Morgan Marinne (Spirou)
The winner of the best screenplay at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, the Dardenne brothers’ film Le Silence de Lorna is finally being released in the US and Canada. Over the past decade, the Belgian siblings have won the Palme d’Or at Cannes twice, for Rosetta and L’enfant, impressing critics worldwide with their gritty narratives, which always have moral undertones to them. Moving effortlessly between depicting the harsh realities of working class life and offering clues to an overall meaning of existence, the Dardennes follow in the footsteps of such European auteurs as Bergman, Rossellini and Bresson.
While not quite on the level of L’enfant, Le Silence de Lorna is still a very powerful film. The first half of the film shows a transformation in the loveless arranged marriage between a young Albanian immigrant, Lorna, and Claudy, a Belgian heroin addict. Set up like the other Dardenne films to look and feel like a documentary, the audience only slowly understands the situations in which the characters have been placed. Gradually, we realize that Lorna has married Claudy to acquire Belgian citizenship and the young junkie has agreed to the arrangement in order to get more drugs.
But Claudy has been impressed by Lorna’s quiet, hard working dignity—she works in a cleaning business—and he’s decided to quit drugs. Though they fight, Lorna begins to develop some feeling for Claudy as he desperately goes cold turkey. She decides to help him while simultaneously hatching a scheme to get a divorce from Claudy on the basis of cruelty.
Fabio, the man who set up the loveless marriage, is opposed to Lorna’s scheme. He wants Claudy to overdose on drugs—far easier than a divorce!—so that he can get Lorna to marry a rich Russian mobster who wants Belgian citizenship. And Lorna, in turn, is in love with Sokol, another Albanian; together, they want to start a snack shop.
The plot, as they used to say, thickens. Despite her love for Sokol, Lorna doesn’t want Claudy to die; in fact, she genuinely wants to help him. But events eventually spin out of her control. How she reacts to the unraveling of the immigration scam shows her true spiritual nature.
Le Silence de Lorna is well worth seeing. This may not be the best Dardenne brothers effort but it’s far, far better than most films in cinemas today.