Since turning from documentaries to fiction in the mid-1990s, the Belgian filmmaking brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have crafted a series of stunning if bleak dramas about Europe’s outcasts: the unemployed, the homeless, an underclass of illegal immigrants, black marketeers, teenage hoods and thieves.
In “Lorna’s Silence,” the Dardennes’ austere but oddly hopeful fifth film, an Albanian woman (the mesmerizing Arta Dobroshi) tries to make a new life for herself in the Belgian city of Liege.
Lorna shares an apartment with Claudy, a junkie who has fear and failure in his eyes. She married him to gain her Belgian citizenship, a plan orchestrated by the mobster, Fabio. Either by overdose or “accident,” Claudy is a goner – and then Lorna can be wed to a Russian who likewise seeks European papers. Thousands and thousands of euros will change hands.
But there are complications to Fabio’s scheme: There is Lorna’s Albanian boyfriend, Sokol (Alban Ukaj), with whom she wants to open a snack bar. And, more profoundly, there is Lorna’s guilt: she doesn’t want Claudy, who is trying to get clean, to die.
Dobroshi’s Lorna almost trembles with a conviction that everything is going to turn out right, even as she sabotages the cash-fueled designs of Fabio and his bosses.
On one level, “Lorna’s Silence” is about the uneasy commingling of the estranged and the established, of the poor and the middle-class, in the new Europe.
But on a deeper level, it offers a portrait of a fragile yet determined woman set on making a home for herself in the world, even as that world unravels before her eyes.