In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “One movie in, and I already have a good idea of why Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are so revered.”
The main reason I started this blog was to make me watch more movies, and to vary the kinds of movies I watched. The first part of that has been well and truly accomplished with me watching hundreds of movies for the first time, instead of falling back on old favourites over and over again. But l’m not sure if I’ve varied my selections enough. I still watch mainly American movies, with directors, writers and actors that make them a pretty safe bet. So this year, I’m forcing myself to seek out more international movies. With Foreign Language Weekends, every weekend(ish) during 2016, I’ll review two(ish) non-English language movies.
“Why did you kill somebody?”
I have been hearing and reading about the Dardenne brothers for a long time. The word masterpiece seems to get bandied about pretty freely in relation to their work, and they have been nominated for the Palm d’Or a staggering six times, winning it twice. That’s the kind of strike rate that makes me think the word masterpiece is more than likely appropriate when it comes to Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. It’s also the kind of strike rate that makes me feel really slack for only just now watched my first Dardenne brothers movie, The Son.
A carpenter in a workshop that trains and teaches young criminals as part of their rehabilitation, Olivier (Olivier Gourmet) is a tad on the depressed side. Things only get worse when his ex-wife (Isabella Soupart) lets him know that she’s pregnant and about to re-marry. Olivier’s life becomes more complicated when a new student arrives (Morgan Marinne as Francis), who is intrinsically linked to Olivier’s dour state of mind, and his divorce. Olivier develops an obsession with the boy, who in turns sees OIivier has a father figure, while being totally unaware of the tragic connection they share.
The Son is a tough watch. Olivier is a tragic figure who has had to endure the worst nightmare for any parent. And the Dardennes do nothing to ease the pain for the character or the viewers. In fact, they shoot it in such a stripped back, simple, unadorned style, that it feels uncomfortably all too real. With its constantly moving, often shaky camera work, it’s almost like the camera is capturing real life, and struggling to keep up with it, instead of following some preordained script.
One of the things I’m enjoying most about Foreign Language Weekends, is the exposure to new film makers and actors. Watching as many movies as I do, the cast and directors can get a little repetitive and predictable. Watching foreign movies means new faces, which means having much less of an idea of what to expect from an actor, or where a director might take a story. Having never seen these actors before, Olivier and Francis are somehow more believable than if it they were played by familiar, Hollywood stars.
One movie in, and I already have a good idea of why Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are so revered. This is the kind of story that takes something pretty sensationalistic, but makes it seem totally realistic and natural. And because of that, The Son is a movie I loved, that I also kind of hope I never see again. It packs the kind of punch that I don’t really want to subject myself to repeatedly.