Another year, another great Dardenne brothers movie. Getting monotonous, isn’t it? Well we won’t complain if we keep getting to see movies like Lorna’s Silence. More to come this week on this fantastic new film, but first, take a look at a sample from Damon Smith’s interview with the brilliant Belgians, and then click below to read his entire profile and interview.
RS: There’s often an atmosphere of distress in your narrative films. There’s an anxiety, almost a thriller aspect, in the way they’re constructed. Do you think that keeping an audience on the edge of their seat is a way of engaging them with a film about people they might not otherwise care about or want to see?
LD: No, no. But as soon as there’s a murder involved, you’re going in the direction of suspense. It’s not really to get people on the edge of their seats. What we’re interested in is trying to see how far a character will go when everything around her tells her, “Let him die.” Is she going to resist that pressure or not? Everyone is telling her to let it happen: He’s a drug addict, who cares if he dies of an OD? There’s generally no inquiry, no police investigation when somebody dies of an overdose. The first idea is often that it’s a suicide. Rather than a thriller, it’s really asking whether the character is going to go to the end of this plan. In other words, is she going to kill or not? But it’s more the moral dimension of things.
RS: Preparing for our conversation, I read an essay by Emmanuel Levinas called “Ethics and Spirit,” in which he wrote, “Murder is possible only when one has not looked the Other in the face. The impossibility of murder is not real, but moral.” And that seems to resonate very clearly with Lorna’s path in this film.
LD: Yeah. I think that person looking back at us forbids us from killing. The face of the Other is the part of the Other that is the weakest, and it’s also the part that invites us to murder. That’s how I understand Levinas’s work. The fact that killing is forbidden is something our characters live with in the film, but it’s very different from the reality of life. Levinas says that at some point, it is the Other’s gaze, the other person looking at us, who calls to us in order not to die. And in a way, Lorna knows that Claudy has to die. That’s what she sees in the end.