Lorna's Silence

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      Starring Arta Dobroshi and Jérémie Renier. In French with English subtitles. Rated 14A. Opens Friday, August 28, at the Ridge Theatre

      Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have a formula, and it's one of the most exacting in the history of cinema. Basically, what these brothers do is take a neorealistic look at the least privileged citizens (the immigrants, the homeless, the unemployed) of their native Belgium, then filter it through a prism of Bressonian austerity. Their unyielding integrity explains why they've won four major prizes at the Cannes Film Festival thus far (it also probably explains their cold shoulder at the Oscars).

      Watch the trailer for Lorna's Silence.

      In Lorna's Silence, an ambitious Albanian immigrant (Arta Dobroshi) marries a local junkie (Jérémie Renier) in order to obtain Belgian citizenship. Under the tutelage of Fabio (Fabrizio Rongione), a would-be mobster who drives a cab, Lorna agrees to give her drug-addicted spouse an overdose so that she can make extra money by marrying a Russian cigarette smuggler who also needs a western identity. Her long-term goal is to open a snack bar with her Albanian sweetheart, Sokol (Alban Ukaj).

      Initially, murder seems like just another part of a complicated business deal, but as the day of the lethal injection creeps closer, the end result seems more like Feodor Dostoyevsky than Horatio Alger. Lorna tries to achieve success by other means, but Fabio grows impatient.

      Despite the underworld subject matter, there isn't a single second of sensationalism in Lorna's Silence (neither, for that matter, is there a single laugh). The film is both art and social criticism, and the Dardenne brothers take these things very seriously (even if most of the world does not). Or, to put it another way, Lorna's Silence is the perfect movie for those who want to escape from escapism.