Posted by: kfugrip | March 1, 2007

Dardenne X2

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are two of the most celebrated directors in international cinema. They have won multiple awards at Cannes, and their films appear on the top ten list of most critics at the end of their respective years. Before tonight (plus some last night, when I began watching the movie) I had seen only Rosetta, by the brothers Dardenne. The film is Le Fils (The Son) and it gets 4 stars from me and is a hairsbreadth from 5. Powerful stuff.

I watched Le Fils the past two nights and found it to be a moving portrait of healing and forgiveness. Sounds trite when I write it out that way, but I couldn’t be more sincere. This film, about a man who takes on his son’s murderer as an apprentice, is moved forward in a series of scenes that are rich with tension. This man, Oliver, played by Oliver Gourmet who won the award for best performance at Cannes for this role, is gripped by the solitude that a death like his son’s creates. A death that destroys, not only one life, but ends a marriage. The performance is understated and intimate.

For those not familiar with the Dardenne’s style of shooting, it is a hand held camera trained on the protagonist’s face in close-up for much of the film. Very mobile and claustrophobic at times, it never relents in it’s depiction of the main character’s life. Face, hands, the details of someone’s life. I don’t like hand held camera in 90% of the films that use it because it’s a gimmick, a trick to fool the audience into thinking that they are experiencing intimacy or it’s an over used tool for creating confusion. We all know the “shakey cam” approach and I hate it. This is not one of those instances. Though hand held for the entire film, it’s a stylistic approach that does lead me to identify with the main character more, because it’s their movie, their face, for the duration. I believe that if this movie was filmed with static shots of the same action it would be just as engaging.

There is also a dedication to location in the Dardenne’s movies that you don’t find in many American movies. They are from Belgium and film all of their movies in the town in which they grew up. Often incorporating places where they spent their youth, the films feel like a home movie. It’s universal, the sense of place. Though thousands of miles from New York and West Virginia, it seems like every place in between. Not because of some generic feeling but just the opposite, because it’s specific. Particular to those locations, that countryside, etc…

4 stars. If you haven’t seen a Dardenne movie watch this one or Rosetta as soon as possible. You’ll like them.




  1. […] the film sets the tone of realism. Mungiu’s integrates a mobile camera in the style of the Dardenne Brothers with a still camera to create a sense of how the character’s lives are lived, with stops and […]

  2. […] Though much of the film, or the entire film, was hand-held it was more in the style of the Dardenne Brothers and less from the “shakey-cam” school, where I’m nauseated and attention is […]

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