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3.9 out of 5 stars
Silence Of Lorna [DVD] [2008]
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 4 August 2013

The Silence of Lorna is less "perfect" than some of the other Dardennes' films, but it is as haunting as any, I think. The problem is with the basic premise of the plot, which has Lorna agreeing upfront to the bumping off of junky Claudy once he has served his purpose. You feel the film tries not to point this up too much but it is there, built in to the structure. It's really the story of her redemption, so that without this starting point there would be nothing to redeem, but its extremity does make for a certain awkwardness artistically, as we have to leave open some sense that she is on a knife-edge and not downright evil. However it does veer to the latter when you think about what she is actually going along with.

The best bit of the film is Jeremie Renier's outstanding performance as Claudy. How does he manage to be so convincing, so heartrending in his neediness? It is absolutely staggering, and I can never watch him in this film without being close to tears. Arta Dobroshi is also very good in the main role, and she also becomes strangely moving towards the end of the film - then you realise that subtly there were signs of real caring in her manner earlier on, which the actress suggests very well, because it has to be something the character is not really aware of. It is too late in one sense, but is it too late for her spiritual redemption? It seems to suggest that grace is infinite, and as such the film touches the sublime, albeit out of a flawed initial premise.
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on 20 March 2010
The Silence of Lorna is the latest from the writing-directing-sibling duo Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. These Belgian brothers have a unique style--gritty, naturalistic, and focused on marginalized individuals struggling at the edges of today's "integrated" European society. But they also are a part of (and have influenced) a new wave of slow-burning, thought-provoking European cinema (the Austrian movie "Revanche" and the Romanian "Police, Adjective" spring to mind) that include thriller-like elements while allowing stories to unfold slowly, and rewarding patient viewing. Not surprisingly, these kinds of movies are not huge moneymakers in the blockbuster-oriented, subtitle-averse US market. Jeremie Renier who played a central role in the Dardennes' previous movie, the Palme d'Or-winning The Child (L'enfant) [DVD] [1991], is a major character here, too. He's the junkie Claudy, whom Albanian-immigrant Lorna, played by Arta Dobroshi, has married in order to get the Belgian citizenship which will then pave the way for a bigger payday when she ends her first marriage and marries a wealthy Russian who's looking to set up in Belgium. The story is told from Lorna's perspective and Arta Dobroshi's breakthrough performance not only holds the whole movie together it also slowly reveals the psychological complexities of a character who is barely one rung above her supposedly disposable junkie husband on society's ladder. Despite her revolving door approach to arranged marriages, Lorna has a real boyfriend, Sokol, who is fully aware of the arrangements she's making with Fabio, the taxi-driver-mobster who is trying to make inroads with the Russians. Lorna and Sokol plan to use the money from Lorna's second marriage to open a snack bar. All along, the plan has been for Claudy to conveniently "overdose" to speed things along for all concerned. But when Claudy starts making the effort to get clean--and maybe join his wife-of-convenience on that higher societal rung--things get a bit more complicated for Lorna. It's tense, unpredictable and, without a soundtrack to soften the tension, quietly engrossing.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 October 2012
This 2008 film written and directed by Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes is another of their trademark hard-hitting and realistic dramas focusing on society's underclass, and re-examines a number of contemporary themes explored in their previous films, such as Rosetta (1999), The Son (2002) and The Child (2005).

At the centre of The Silence Of Lorna is the issue of so-called 'marriages of convenience'. Here, Albanian immigrant to Belgium, Lorna (Arta Dobrishi), has agreed to such a marriage to local drug addict Claudy (Jérémie Renier), in order to gain Belgian citizenship, which can then be later transferred to Russian Andrei (Anton Yakovlev) for a fee which Lorna intends to use to set up a cafe business with boyfriend, and fellow Albanian, Sokol (Alban Ukaj). Lorna is, however, faced with an increasingly devastating moral dilemma over how she should split with Claudy to allow her next clandestine marriage, as she begins to reject the inhuman plans of local fixer Fabio (Fabrizio Rongione) to kill Claudy (via a drugs overdose), and instead merely divorce him (on the grounds of faked physical abuse). This sets up an engaging set of narrative twists and turns, and dramatic filmic mood swings, as Lorna realises she harbours an affection for Claudy, even if this is to shatter her dream idyll of domestic life running a cafe.

Once again, the Dardennes brothers have elicited superbly natural and affecting acting performances from their cast and, in newcomer Kosovo-Albanian Arta Dobrishi, have again hit the jackpot with an unknown delivering a brilliant lead performance. In addition to Dobrishi, The Silence Of Lorna features a number of Dardennes regulars, including the outstanding Jérémie Renier as Claudy, who delivers as good a performance as I have seen depicting the devastating trauma suffered by a drug addict, together with Fabrizio Rongione, impressive as the cold and detached Fabio, and Olivier Gourmet, delivering a brief cameo as a policeman.

The Dardennes Brothers' social realist approach to film-making has often been compared to that of Ken Loach, and whilst there are obviously many similarities, particularly around the societal issues portrayed in their films, there are also significant differences. A key difference relates to the Dardennes' use of the camera (courtesy of regular cinematographer Alain Marcoen), which eschews Loach's more studied medium-shot approach for a more dynamic hand-held style, including the use of repeated mobile close-ups. This approach is featured in The Silence Of Lorna, with the effect of heightening audience tension and uncertainty, as Lorna is seen repeatedly hurrying along hospital and apartment block corridors. Another impressive skill that is repeatedly demonstrated by the Dardennes is their ability to use simple daily activities (making the bed, getting dressed, making a phone call) to underpin key dramatic developments (for me, akin to other great film-makers such as Loach, Leigh, Bresson, Terence Davies, etc).

Overall, another absorbing and powerful drama, worthy of its place in the increasingly impressive body of work from these leading European film-makers.
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on 22 December 2014
The Dardenne brother's "The kid on the bike" and "Two days, one night" had the knack of making the mundane and seemingly ordinary seem hugely compelling. Whilst both efforts are slow paced. they are almost manifestoes of what great cinema should be about. This earlier effort takes an alternative path and renders what is a shocking and far from ordinary story in to a disturbing narrative whilst never quite managing to transform itself in to a thriller or offer any real menace. The two latest films serve to make the small, Belgian town in the films as much as character as the individuals whereas the lack of familiarity with the Eastern European underground makes this story hard to relate to.

This isn't a bad film by any standard but I didn't feel it quite matched the other two films even though it had a very strong lead performance by Arta Dobroshi. I think that the principle problem is that her character, Lorna, is not particularly sympathetic but the film was also undone by the manner in which Claudy meets his fate. Having been familiar with what the Dardenne brothers produce, I thought that I had a clear idea of what this film would be about having read the synopsis. However, the burgeoning relationship between Lorna and Claudy is not the central focus and, if anything, to quote Adolf Eichmann's biographer, Hanna Arendt, this film is really about the banality of evil. The manner in which the first half of the film finished seemed particularly glib and, having set up the stalls to portray a character cheerfully about to depart on the route to redemption, it felt that the directors had immediately lost interest in him. I felt that the film struggled to recover after this point despite a valiant effort.

Whereas the other films felt totally real, the reactions of the various characters in this film was often hard to take. Claudy's family seemed equally acknowledging of the fact he had a wife about whom they were unaware as to his ultimate fate. This didn't seem to ring true to me. It is also a film of two halves - the first part concluding with the principle incident happening off screen with the consequence that the film became a bit confusing immediately afterwards. The involvement of the Russian mafia is not at all menacing until the film reaches it's conclusion and even this seems not to be fully resolved as if the directors had a wish to pick up the baton with Lorna in a later film. For me, the main problem was that I wasn't made to feel so interested in any of the protagonists and what could have been a pretty frightening and menacing film seemed to deliberately have the tension and excitement taken out of it - a bit like the kind of jazz issued on Manfred Eicher's ECM label where the red-blooded elements of human nature are frowned upon in favour of a more measured and cool approach. There are instances where this can work with great success yet "The silence of Lorna" seems like a warm up to the later two films where the appearances of Cecile de France and Marion Cottilard serve to transform both pieces in to masterpieces of 21st Century cinema. It is an Ok film and perhaps demonstrative that the Dardennes seem to be on some upwards journey as their approach to film making becomes increasingly more satisfying as cinema.
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on 11 August 2010
There is nothing to lose by revealing the ending - the other reviewers have already done so. I enjoyed (if that's the right word) this film right up until Lorna refuses to believe she's not pregnant, then it lost me. I have heard that women's brains get addled when they get pregnant, but really! This was too silly (and she wasn't pregnant anyhow). I suppose her experience was enough to send anyone doolally, but even that didn't seem to merit her final self-delusion. The final bit was a complete cop-out. I suppose we know she won't last five minutes in that forest before matey sees the smoke and homes in on her, gun in hand (and why didn't she have the sense to push him out of the car and drive off? Couldn't she drive? I wouldn't fancy running through a forest in those heels). But the rest of the film didn't spare us, so why should the end? What a pity - such a good film otherwise.

As for acting, she seemed to have the same expression throughout, i.e. no expression at all. Which is in keeping with French films (sorry, francophone films), where the heroine must at all times look beautiful. And didn't she speak French well for an immigrant? She could even pronounce her French "r"s.

As for the ending being "religious", as one reviewer said, well, talk about bringing your own baggage to the film. Did he mean "moral"? If so, morality and religion aren't the same thing - you CAN have morality without believing in God.
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on 15 October 2009
I agree with the first reviewer that the Dardennes brother have made better movies (most notably Rosetta), but also think that it's a movie well worth watching. The acting is extremely good and the direction manages to be both strong and subtle. They've managed to make the movie primarily through the point of view of the main character, while keeping a kind of distance at the same time. (it's probably a bit confusing as an explanation, but it's so unusual in a way that you'd probably have to see the movie to get my point). As to whether you'll enjoy it or not, you'd rather be the type of person who enjoys the journey at least as much as the destination, or your reaction will be like the one of the second reviewer.
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on 1 January 2010
The Dardennes Brothers join the select ranks of sibling movie teams (Coens, Maysles etc) which regularly garner awards and critical praise. The Dardennes certainly deserve it, and even their lesser work is more worthy of attention than the better work of many. Most of the Dardennes Brothers films are concerned with redemption in some form or other. Le Silence de Lorna is no exception, and while it doesn't have the satisfying shape of "L'Enfant" and "Rosetta", it still has considerable resonance and substance.

Initially, Lorna is an Eastern European immigrant to Belgium (though made in 2008, this is Europe pre-enlargement). She has made an arranged marriage with a junkie, Claudy, to obtain citizenship. Now it is coming through, she is concerned to dump him as quickly as possible, and move into another arranged marriage, this time with a rich Russian, so he in turn can get citizenship. This arrangement will be made through a shady gang headed by Fabio, a taxi-driver. As well as being in this marriage, she has a relationship with Sokol, another immigrant, and dreams of opening up a snack bar with him, using the money she'll earn from the Russian deal.

But Claudy is determined to come off the drugs. Although she treats him with absolute detachment and coldness, his need for her during the withdrawal symptoms (harrowingly shown), his essential optimism and decency, wears down her barriers until the relationship is not one of convenience any more. So - and here is where the title comes in - the gang arranges for Claudy's death through a forced drug overdose, with Lorna's silent knowledge and connivance.

After his death, the gang's plans are put in jeopardy when Lorna discovers she's expecting a baby by Claudy, which she refuses to abort. Except, she's not pregnant, according to the doctors who examine her... This does not shake her belief, and, convinced the gang will kill her, she escapes into some woods. The last image of the film has her lying in an abandoned hut, talking to the baby, promising she will protect it.

The Dardennes Brothers are twice winners of the Cannes Palm d'Or, and theirs is a very high-class act. They tell their story elliptically - only gradually do we find out what is going on plot-wise with the gang and the plan to get rid of Claudy, and by then we have been drawn into Lorna's world. Most of the early part of the film is shot in close-up or head-and-shoulders, and Lorna, in a cool, subtle and understated performance by , dominates the screen and our attention. Not that she is sympathetic. We watch horrified as she treats Claudy like muck in the face of his desperate need for support coming off drugs, even if we understand Lorna's need for him not to dominate her life.

This is a deeply fascinating film, and I think a very religious film, in the broadest sense. The baby is both her conscience and a symbol of her love for Claudy, a love she didn't realise she felt at the time. Protecting it, even if "it" doesn't exist, is a kind of atonement. Not that this is ever stated, because the Dardennes, unlike most British film-makers, never feel the need to explain. Dialogue is limited, functional. They obey faultlessly one of the prime rules of movie-making, "Don't tell us, show us". They also have the courage to leave things open to different interpretations, most crucially, Is Lorna pregnant, and does it matter whether she is or not? They make no judgement about the murky world of illegal immigration, or indeed drug-taking. Within these there are simply people trying to do the right thing, and those who aren't.

In short, an adult film for an intelligent adult audience, with a compelling plotline and touching on the profound.
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VINE VOICEon 10 August 2010
The Dardennes Bros. latest is different than previous films,shot on 35mm film this time not close up,but more objectively and in Liege,the city, rather than rural town they usually film in.Also immigrants would go to a city.The theme is the commercialization of life at the margins to the characters in their films,when they come to see that human life is priceless.Lorna(Arta Dobroshi) is an Albanian immigrant living in Belgium in a fake marriage to a local drug addict,Claudy(Jeremie Renier),who dreams of leaving her dull, dry-cleaning job to set up a snack bar with her boyfriend,Sokol.Her arranger,Fabio(Fabrizio Rongone),the taxi-driver wants to kill Claudy with an OD, so she is a widow rather than divorcee.He has a wealthy Russian mobster lined up to be her next husband,so he can gain citizenship.She,however,contemptuous of Claudy at first and cold, sleeps separately and gets pulled in to his cold turkey needs when he pleads for her help like a wounded dog.She gets him hospitalized and helps him when he wants to kick the habit.She then resists the killing of Claudy and wants a quick divorce. Asking Fabio to ask the Russian for more time,she will get Claudy to beat her up to obtain a divorce.Fabio goes along with this.

But Claudy will not hit her and she tries to knock bruises into her flesh by hitting walls.Fabio says obtaining a divorce will cost her 5000 euros from the 10000 she'll get by marrying the Russian.Fabio wants to avoid divorce as it will involve the police,but she goes to the police to get her bruises recorded.She would also need witnesses. She asks a nurse dressing her wounds to be her witness. Lorna meets up with her boyfriend, Sokol, an Albanian immigrant periodically,shows him her new Belgium ID.He gives her money to put in their account towards the café. She is looking at snack bar addresses for a bank loan.Claudy's desire to kick his drug habit is problematical for her divorce proceedings.Lorna is torn between the dream of a better life and the awakening of conscience. She encourages Claudy to buy a bicycle after they make love.Her divorce is approved.Her boyfriend seems to be part of the scam with Fabio and she is repulsed by him...

There is a jarring transition in the film that is shocking to the viewer, and then she claims she is pregnant.She goes for a check up,but then pulls out of it,not wanting to know if she isn't pregnant.She had gone for an abortion,but now she wants to keep the baby.This pregnancy is more psychodynamic than real.There are many twists, turns and thriller elements in the last part.Lorna's silence is her lack of courage,the return of the ghost of Claudy in her belly is guilt.The coldness of Lorna is overcome by gentleness,she becomes attached to life and truth.At the end she runs through a forest with music ( Beethoven Piano Sonata)playing,allowing the spectator to share her thoughts.She is close to madness,lighting a fire for her baby in a hut,atoning for what she did to Claudy,holding on to her last shred of humanity.The meticulousy plotted screenplay won the award at Cannes. Dobroshi plays Lorna with wrapped up emotions revealing them at vital moments:she is both friendly,trustworthy-looking and very hard, and Renier plays the druggie with pitiable,needy despair.Although not one of their best, Dardennes have pitched us into the difficult decisions of deep moral conundrums and phantom doubts.Real film-making.
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on 17 October 2013
Loved this film so much. Pretty tough but such a beautiful woman character. I highly recommend this film and all the films of these directors.
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on 12 March 2015
Very clever and impressive film. Lorna is first perceived as a scheming and manipulative woman; at the end of the film she is a victim, with a very real threat to her life. The events of the film are tragic and abnormal but they are presented as normal everyday life. This contrast makes the film exquisite. Excellent film and real insight into "the lives of others". The film stayed with me for a long time.
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