Enough About Me... How About You? What Do You Think Of Me?

Friday, September 23, 2005


Programme: Masters
Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Country : Belgium/France
Year : 2005
Language : French
Time: 100 minutes
Production Company: Les Films du Fleuve/Archipel 35/RTBF/Scope Invest/ARTE France Cinéma
Executive Producer: Olivier Bronckart
Producer: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, Denis Freyd
Screenplay: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Cinematography: Alain Marcoen
Editor: Marie-Hélène Dozo
Production Designer: Igor Gabriel
Sound: Jean-Pierre Duret, Benoit de Clerck, Thomas Gauder
Principal Cast: Jérémie Renier, Déborah François, Jérémie Segard, Fabrizio Rongione, Olivier Gourmet

The inspiration for L'Enfant - which received the Palme d'Or at this year's Festival de Cannes - was a young mother frantically pushing a pram. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne saw the woman and her baby day after day during the shooting of Le Fils, their previous film. Her recurring appearance and aimless manner made them wonder, Where was the child's father?

L'Enfant proceeds from this question. It begins as wispy, eighteen-year-old Sonia (Déborah François) looks for Bruno (Jérémie Renier), the father of her newborn son. When she finds him, he scarcely acknowledges their child, though he is coyly happy to see Sonia. Rakish and cynical, the twenty-year-old Bruno works hard to avoid a conventional job; theft and petty crime are more his style. Perpetually cash-strapped - Bruno has even sublet their apartment during Sonia's hospital stay - the couple is forced onto an unpromising road to parenthood by way of a homeless shelter.

L'Enfant's setting is the Belgian town of Seraing, the bleak industrial wasteland that is a hallmark of the Dardennes' films. Still, the film luxuriates in intimately observed gestures and fiercely honest performances that shine against this backdrop of undernourished hopes. Festival audiences will remember Renier from 1996's La Promesse, which L'Enfant somewhat wistfully evokes. In La Promesse, he played Igor, a teen who makes the difficult decision to disobey his criminal father, thereby embracing both morality and maturity. L'Enfant's Bruno is Igor's inverse: he may think his choices are the best or only ones, but they are born from delusions of maturity and are unconscionably self-serving. When he eventually takes an interest in his son, it is to decide to sell him into adoption as a bitter quick fix to financial straits.

Bruno, we realize, is the eponymous child of this tale, and it is the consequences that his decisions wreak on his tiny, fragile family and on his future that make the unfolding of L'Enfant so achingly beautiful.

What a great way to end the festival… this was also a fantastic film. I felt somewhat skeptical going into the film; oddly enough I have lower expectations of films that win great awards – don’t want to be disappointed, I guess. Anyhow, never have I seen a character transform quite like this in a film. You don’t get any more burned out than Bruno, who dispassionately sells his newborn child to a shifty “adoption” person and commits petty crimes for a living (even turning down a lucrative job offer because only losers hold real jobs). The film definitely lived up to the hype of a major award and was heartfelt without being weepy or sermonizing.

Posted by Brown Eyed Girl :: 11:57 AM :: 0 Comments:

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