There is a special scene in the Dardenne's Le Fils (The Son) where the father (played by Olivier Gourmet) spends a quiet moment in his son's empty room. Without dialogue or musical influence, a wave of story and character washes over you. It's like magic.
How does this happen? Well, the films of the Dardenne's are so meticulously crafted that each moment is essential to the next and then back on the moments that preceded it. A chain link of images lead to a point that, without fanfare, opens up a box of resolve. "Um, isn't that simply what storytelling through montage and editing is in general?". Yes, but this is more. The Dardenne's aren't just driving a string of events, they are - in small steps - working on our pre-judgments of the protagonist and our personal perceptions of the world around us to unveil universal human truths. Sounds major, right? Well, it is.
The journey that is taken in the Dardenne's latest film is alongside Lorna, an Albanian illegal immigrant working to settle-down in Belgium. Through an arranged marriage, then divorce, then second arranged marriage, Lorna aims to gain residency, citizenship, and a chunk of start-up money for a snack shop she dreams of opening with her boyfriend. Unlike in Rosetta or Le Fils where the camera is seemingly attached at the ankles and necks of the leads, the Dardenne's give Lorna (Arta Dobroshi, looking like a European Ellen Page) a wider frame to work within. The camera still lingers with our protagonist 24/7, but from more an "in the room" perspective than an over-the-shoulder spy cam.
Like an elegantly pitched baseball game or a carefully crafted pop song, great and beautiful things must end well, and Lorna's Silence's quick close was simply one of my favorite moments at the theater this year. With just a splash of music (the only one in the film) and a simple action, the Dardenne's emit a moment that's as spiritual as the ending to Bresson's A Man Escaped. It was all a means to an end. Everything that came before this moment was for this moment. Without this moment, I would not love Lorna's Silence.
So, I don't think I made much headwind in figuring out how the Dardenne's do what they do, or how they did what they did (again) in Lorna's Silence, but when you're in a whirlwind of awe, it's kind of hard to even see straight, y' know?