Sunday, February 3, 2013

La Promesse. A

The Dardenne's La Promesse is like a reversal of their most recent Kid With a Bike in that it presents a youth who does not want a father. Now, part of this is because here, the kid, Igor (Jeremie Renier) is an adolescent, naturally in pursuit of independence, and also because his father, Roger (Olivier Gourmet) is a crook. While the kid in Bike was too young to realize or care that his dad was no good (he just wanted a father), here Igor is of the age where he sees the immoral nature of his father's deeds. Roger is greedy, taking in illegal immigrants, housing them for money or labor, and when necessary selling them out like pawn items. Igor is indifferent to his father's behavior and has no moral qualms about small crimes, like stealing a lady's purse. But when a death occurs and he sees how his father is handling the situation, Igor wakes up, so to speak, and takes matters into his own hands. In an interview the Dardennes explained that in their early days of making documentaries, they would see young people on the streets having to get their own moral education, which then led them to fiction filmmaking where they could explore this idea in greater depth. And indeed, the central theme of this and much of their work is kids of varying ages having to make choices for themselves because either they have no home or their parents are miscreants. That interview, which is available on the recently released Criterion edition of the movie, offers other insights into these great filmmakers, including their stubborn work ethic. What they call The Dardenne way, in which, among other things, there is no technology on set and the film is shot in chronological order. There's something very raw and natural and yet also incredibly precise about this process, which translates onto the screen. Watch La Promesse and you'll see the Dardennes never needed to grow up as filmmakers or storytellers, that their style was set, they knew what they wanted, and that their movies from frame one onward were as delicate and complicated as they come. 

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