Lonely night falls in Lorna's Silence
TORONTO—Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne may be less known in North America than Francis Ford Coppola, but Coppola and the Belgian brothers are three of the five members of one of filmmaking’s most exclusive clubs. The three men have won two Palme d’Or awards at the Cannes Film Festival. (The others are Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Emir Kusturica and Denmark’s Bille August.) To put that into perspective, Oscar winner Quentin Tarantino said recently that winning the Palme d’Or for Pulp Fiction was easily the highlight of his career. The Dardennes won in 1999 for Rosetta and in 2005 for L’Enfant (The Child). Their latest Cannes entry, Lorna’s Silence, won the best-screenplay award at last year’s Cannes festival, and opens in Vancouver on Friday (August 28).
The film tells the story of an Albanian woman named Lorna (Arta Dobroshi) who dreams of owning a snack bar in the Belgian city of Lií¨ge with her boyfriend, Sokol. In order to earn the money, she will have to marry a Belgian junkie named Claudy (Jérémie Renier). She is told that she will then divorce him and marry a Russian crime boss, who will become a Belgian citizen. The arrangement is overseen by local taxi driver and thug Fabio (Fabrizio Rongione), who eventually tells her that the Mafia is not concerned about any divorce because it intends to kill Claudy after he marries. If she tells anyone about the deal, they will kill her as well.
At least some of the Dardennes’ success can be attributed to casting. Renier is one of several actors who have appeared in more than one of their films, and their movies have won 20 international award nominations for individual performances. In a hotel room at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Luc said that few of their stories have been as reliant on a single performance as Lorna’s Silence. He said they worked hard to find the right female lead, discovering her in Sarajevo after auditioning more than 100 women for the role.
“Arta had some experience. She was in two films and she had worked in theatre as well. She is great. It is really an intuition. As soon as we began working with her, you could see there was chemistry. We just could feel that she had so much potential as an actress. She had such a sweet face, but sometimes it was sweet and sometimes cold. We really constructed the film so that she would be the centre and that things focused on her and the audience would be drawn to her.”
Jean-Pierre said he and his brother knew that this particular movie was going to be focused on a central female character before they even began to write the script. He said the story came from their desire to make a movie about a young woman in peril.
“We wrote a script about a young woman, and it wasn’t good, but we remembered a story told by a friend who was a junkie who got a proposal for a marriage with a prostitute from Albania. It was a proposition by the Mob, and our friend knew that when the Mafia proposes a marriage, you have part of the money for the marriage and another part for the divorce. But you don’t see this part because the Mafia makes you overdose, so the reality was different. We remembered the story when we were looking to make a movie about a young woman, because this woman is caught between two choices—to accept that Claudy will die or to save Claudy—and we liked that situation.”
To make the film feel realistic to the audience, the brothers decided to move away from their traditional 16mm cameras and shoot in 35mm. Luc said they also tried shooting with digital cameras, but the experience was unsatisfactory.
“The element of the mystery for Lorna and Fabio is that they are the children of the night. The day has to be very different from the night in the movie. So we chose to shoot in 35mm because when we tried to shoot with a digital camera it didn’t work in terms of the contrast. It worked when we used 35mm because we had more control of the way we shot the nighttime. We didn’t want to use the light of cinema, just the light of the street, because we felt that was needed to help tell the story. It was important to see Lorna with other people. She is ordinary like the others but has a secret that the audience knows. It is important to see her in the night surrounded by people but knowing that she is alone.”