New Dardenne Brother Film Silence of Lorna: "A Minority of People Have Any Moral Thought Whatsoever..."

07/25/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Dardenne Brothers' latest film The Silence of Lorna probes--as do many of their films-- the underside of humanity: what happens when people are willing to do anything--even kill--to economically survive. Lorna, an Albanian immigrant in Belgium, goes along with a plot to marry (and murder) a heroin addict for his papers, and is tormented by the moral consequences.

I spoke to Luc Dardenne as well as actress Arta Dobroshi about their film at the Greek Thessaloniki International Film Festival.

Your films are hard to watch because you often depict human beings willing to do anything to survive--to get money--which turns them into beasts, immoral agents.

Lorna simply wants to make her life better. She is driven by this desire to get ahead. She is no different from anyone else. Everyone wants to get ahead. Immigrants want to succeed. To achieve their dream, there is a price to pay. Here Lorna has to accept the death of a man. Yet she reaches a moral turn.

Lorna might reach a moral turn. But the rest of the people in her universe remain beasts. Are you that pessimistic about human beings?

Yes they do remain beasts. It's true it's just Lorna who changes. The world is like that. It is a minority of people who have any moral conscience. But Lorna does. Maybe she wanted to kill him, but she didn't do it.

So you do think the world is like that. Isn't that sad?

Of course it is sad. But it is real. (he nods) A minority of people have any moral thought whatsoever..

The ending of your film is mysterious: both hopeful and poignant. She is independent, but alone and deluded, thinking she is pregnant.

Yes exactly. The good part is that it is a definitive end, even if she is her fantasy world . She will never go back, she has escaped. She would never go back to her boyfriend. Lorna had learned.

Both Lorna and the early film The Promise are about immigrants who are exploited. How has the situation of immigrants changed in these years?

Between 1994 when we made The Promise and 2008 when we made The Silence of Lorna, a great change took place in Belgium. Before there were less immigrants and mostly from the East. Also back then, in Belgium there was a system that if they had an address they could have money to live on. Now there are many more immigrants and the law has become harder, and it is difficult for them to live. It is a problem. We must not do things that are inhuman, like close the borders, but we also have to find a way not to be obliged to accept everyone, or all our systems--retirement, unemployment, etc--will be threatened. Immigrants are part of our reality.

The problem of immigrants, however, is not the central concern of your film. Your interest lays with Lorna...

Exactly. This is Lorna's story How she is inside, how she develops.

A few questions about the making of the film. This is a collaborative project, as always. How did you and your brother work on this particular film?

My brother and I are always talking with each other each stage of the way. We structure the film together--we have the same vision--and then I write it by myself, but I call him all the time on the phone. For example, we asked what should we do with the heroin addict? We'll make him die. And then we asked ourselves: what will Lorna do after? She would have to accept it. How can she accept it? And so on.....

This film is much less frenetic than your others.

We calmed the camera because of how we imagined Lorna. Her story is very complicated, she does something she doesn't want to. She is so complicated that we thought we can't move the camera or no one will understand: it will be too difficult! We felt as we worked on the script and even more so during the shooting that we had to look at Lorna, to observe her, and not be in her energy. We want the camera to observe her, to see how she organizes herself.

Why are scuffles such a big part of your films? Here Lorna fights with the heroin addict, even as she is trying to help him. In The Promise, the boy scuffles with his Dad.

My brother and I laugh about that. You know we play-act the scuffle ourselves, before it's filmed. We joke that we like to have people fall to the ground. In this case, the point was to have the heroin addict get to the ground, because the drug has reduced him to an animal. In The Promise, it was different. There the scuffle between the father and the son which ends up with the father being chained is to signify that the boy has broken his contract with his father. That film was about contracts.

Now the big question for audiences. Is Lorna really pregnant at the end?

No, I don't think so -- but you can think what you like! Look at the echography (he laughs). We invented the pregnancy because we wanted a way for the heroin addict to come back to her. How does he come back? Why in this belief that she is pregnant! She thinks that she is. What has happened is that this moment which she did not control--the sexual moment with Claudy-- comes back, something remains. The conscience always comes back----

But what does Lorna have to be guilty about? She wanted to save him.

She was not really a hero. She did not save him. So he--in some form--has to come back to her. I believe that always happens, that what one has done in the past always comes back to one's mind until it is resolved. Something one has given birth to must always come back.

A more market question: Can you comment on the difference between American movies and European movies?

Europeans are afraid of fantasy--all these enormous twists of fate that happen in something like Mamma Mia--wow she slept with three men and who is the father?--only in America can we have musical comedy. But we Europeans have an advantage, we have a closer relationship to reality.

Yet there is a bit of fantasy in your films too. Someone like Lorna always rises above the reality of the situation through her interior morals.

(Dardenne laughs) "I guess so."

Silence of Lorna will be released July 3lst in the US.