The Dardenne Brothers Bear Witness 

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"We wanted the viewer to see an intriguing woman, intriguing in two senses: because we're wondering what she thinks, what's going on, but also because she has several strategies she develops," Luc said of their hard-working protagonist, whose plans to start a cafe with her border-hopping boyfriend are strained by the marriage imbroglio. "The best way for that to come across is to keep our distance and just watch. And [there's] also something we're always trying to do: our life is about fighting sequence shots."

What comes through as well is the essential solitude of the character, as Lorna's sense of self-possession becomes something new under the pressures of her criminal handlers and other developments. The "silence" of the title refers to Lorna's lonely choice of whether to speak out and save Claudy, the addict husband of convenience (played by Dardenne mainstay Jérémie Renier). Just as the drama of the situation builds, the Dardennes employ a fascinating temporal ellipse, an editing cut that brings the film into Lorna's viewpoint in a new way.

"The cut was always there in the writing of the script," Luc said. "There's an enigma there, sort of a narrative technique to get the spectator intrigued. And we wanted to come back to Claudy through Lorna's eyes."

It's a move that recalls something the Dardennes explained earlier when discussing their documentaries (which had recently been screened at the Walter Reade). Of those often highly constructed assemblages — rife with testimony to the camera instead of the body-centered motion of the later films — they said they "trusted the spoken word to speak of history or past things that had happened, because the people we had filmed were witnesses of past events." Lorna's Silence, and indeed Dardennes' empathetic output of the past decade, presents a witnessing to present-tense struggles — one that culminates with Lorna's fateful decisions and heartrending search for purpose.


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