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Waffling in a Belgian Conundrum

MOVIE REVIEW
Lorna's Silence (2008)

4
Christine Plenus/Sony Pictures Classics

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have plenty of admirers as evidenced by their two Palme d’or wins. But their shtick is getting old, and they know it. So “Lorna’s Silence” marks a departure of sorts for the Belgian filmmakers, albeit one that doesn’t entirely work.

Their new film concerns an Albanian immigrant, Lorna (Arta Dobroshi), who has just successfully petitioned for Belgian citizenship via a sham marriage to a drug addict named Claudy (Jérémie Renier). The plan is for Claudy to conveniently die of an overdose by the time Lorna obtains her citizenship, so the mobster Fabio (Fabrizio Rongione) can perpetuate the immigration fraud by offering Lorna for marriage with a wealthy Russian looking to become a Belgian himself. To this point, the movie is still firmly grounded in familiar Dardennes territory.

When Claudy checks himself into rehab and thus jeopardizes the plan, Lorna discovers her conscience and tries to save his life. Eventually she loses her sanity, and the film ends up somewhere atypical for the Dardennes. On the technical front, the filmmakers have also traded 16 mm for 35 mm stock, and toned down the handheld camera. Still, what initially promises to be a morality tale doesn’t really have any messages to speak of about immigration, womanhood, poverty, humanity or anything else for that matter.

LORNA’S SILENCE

Opens on July 31 in Manhattan.

Written and directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne; director of photography, Alain Marcoen; edited by Marie-Hélène Dozo; production designer, Igor Gabriel; produced by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and Denis Freyd; released by Sony Pictures Classics. In French, Albanian and Russian, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes. This film is rated R.

WITH: Arta Dobroshi (Lorna), Jérémie Renier (Claudy), Fabrizio Rongione (Fabio), Alban Ukaj (Sokol) and Morgan Marinne (Spirou).

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