Festival de ‘Usual Suspects’: Le Fils (2002) de Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

April 20, 2016 § Leave a comment

I knew there was a good reason for my being quietly unconvinced when praise was being heaped upon Laszlo Nemes for his ‘groundbreaking’ visual approach to Son of Saul with it’s heavy reliance on tight close-up shots hovering within mere feet of the protagonist’s head and shoulders. Having finally seen that film and having now seen Le Fils, I realise that the reason for my skepticism was ‘the Dardennes,’ granted – of course – that Nemes’ use of focus and depth-of-field remains unique and laudable. Either way, watching the Belgian brothers’ 2002 slice of unembellished realism and thinking back to their sophomore effort Rosetta (their first Palme d’Or clincher), I am struck by the commitment and intensity with which – in these two pictures, in particular – they consolidate this mode of extreme spatial intimacy, their camera breaching their characters’ ‘safe spaces’ and maintaining this intrusion for extended periods in a way that seems initially claustrophobic and coarse, but which somehow leads to unprecedented emotional combustion and a strange kind of narrative purity. And while I may ultimately  prefer the slightly more refined fairy-tale austerity of the Dardennes’ more recent work, Le Fils is perhaps the best example of their ability to strip a somewhat dubious premise of all sensationalism, only to gradually infuse the spare remnants with dramatic doses of humanity. In their hands, this unassuming story of a woodwork instructor (Olivier Gourmet) whose new apprentice happens to be his son’s killer is a gently unsettling tug of war between forgiveness and vengeance; between moving on and hanging on.


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