The Cinema of the Dardenne Brothers: Responsible Realism (Directors' Cuts)
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The brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have established an international reputation for their emotionally powerful realist cinema. Inspired by their home turf of Liège-Seraing, a former industrial hub of French-speaking southern Belgium, they have crafted a series of fiction films that blends acute observation of life on the social margins with moral fables for the postmodern age. This volume analyses the brothers' career from their leftist video documentaries of the 1970s and 1980s through their debut as directors of fiction films in the late 1980s and early 1990s to their six major achievements from The Promise (1996) to The Kid with a Bike (2011), an oeuvre that includes two Golden Palms at the Cannes film festival, for Rosetta (1999) and The Child (2005). It argues that the ethical dimension of the Dardennes' work complements rather than precludes their sustained expression of a fundamental political sensibility.
what remains and encourages us to ask how private and public spheres may still interact. Ironically, the main steelworks site is now considered to be a part of the Walloon industrial heritage and is potentially open as a tourist attraction. We sense that Edmond would be a perfect if partial guide. We visit another key site in recounting the story: Edmond’s house where he and his comrades wrote the newspaper and coordinated its distribution. The table from 1960 remains in use for reading, writing
Dardennes avoid a simplistic Manichaeism and offer no easy answers. The Son indirectly raises another question: what does it take for one young person to kill another? In this regard the 1993 case, in which two ten-year-old children in Liverpool kidnapped and murdered two-year-old James Bulger, bore on the brothers’ conception of the film. ‘What did they inherit to commit this act?’ asks Luc, adding ruefully: ‘state of things in our world’ (2005: 20). Out of their subsequent reflections came the
cost to use the device or to keep it charged. In Bruno’s expedient philosophy everything has a price. With little thought of tomorrow he acquires or disposes of anything that money buys or that will earn him more of it. This attitude dictates his behaviour toward others. Though he is an irresponsible drifter, he is capable of tenderness toward Sonia, shown in acts of sudden generosity such as buying her a leather jacket like his own and renting a convertible for a day to take her on a joy ride.
carries her from the river bank like a giant rag doll, cars flash by on a road but none of their occupants stop to offer help. Another similarity to previous films is the paucity of dialogue whereby words often follow the action rather than prompt a subsequent shot. The brothers’ cinematography and mise-en-scène combine to make the script fit the film rather than the other way round. Much of the rhythmic momentum of the film derives from repeated shots of actions, gestures, objects and places.
London: Fontana. Winston, Brian (1995) Claiming the Real: The Griersonian Documentary and its Legitimations. London: British Film Institute. Wolfreys, Jim (2008) ‘Reality Bites.’ Online. Socialist Review, December. Young, Neil (2006) ‘Standard Liege: Dardenne and Dardenne’s The Child’. Online. Neil Young’s Film Lounge, 17 April. Available at http://www.jigsawlounge.co.uk/film/reviews/standard-liege- dardenne-dardenne-s-the-child-6–10/ re sp on si b l e re a l i sm Dardenne_pages.indb 147 147