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In terms of realism as an aesthetic style, there are three different camps: cinematic realism (Haneke), magical realism (Weerasethakul) and realism realism (the Dardenne brothers). L’Enfant, directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, was filmed as starkly and close to true life as possible. The challenge with such a movie is to create something that is so bare on the surface and yet engaging enough to hold an audience’s attention. This is of course done through the merit of the story and its portrayal through the performances of the actors. If the aesthetic is as raw as possible, then the plot and the actors must also be as raw as possible. The slightest hint of artificiality could expose the entire picture as a fraud.
L’Enfant contains no artificialities. I was surprised to look up some of the leads (Jérémie Renier, Déborah François) and see that they were actually trained professionals. They could have easily been genuine riffraffs that the producers had picked up from off the street. I was also surprised to look closely at the baby during scenes where I was sure they were using a doll…and then suddenly his hand moves.
I can somehow imagine how Chris Nolan makes the kind of movies he makes and I can somehow I imagine how Spielberg makes the kind of movies he makes. What I absolutely cannot grasp is how artists like the Dardenne brothers can make something so true-to-life and captivating. Clearly, it is not something they accomplish by way of millions of dollars, A-list talent, or high concept scripts. It’s something that they achieve by way of true talent. In that sense, the most brilliant directors in business today just may be the least assuming.
For the great story that L’Enfant was, and for its artless execution, I give this one a 9.1/10.
Here's the thing: the male character is the central protagonist, and the child of the title.
The main tussle is not only between a sociopath and his responsibility to others, and impact upon them; but also between value and price in a culture in which the idea of earning something by working for it (instead of by stealing) seems to be only for losers. "Only ****ers work."
A profound and intensely framed moral tale.
AtomicSquad - Don't watch "Rosetta" or "The Son." While I think all those repetitious scenes of transportation are integral to what the brothers are trying to do, and are an essential part of what makes me have such a (positive) visceral reaction to their films, I can understand why others would be frustrated with it. It's a delicate balance that most directors aren't able to handle, but I think they manage it extremely well.
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In 7 official lists
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This movie ranks #19 in Belgian Film Awards
This movie ranks #42 in A.V. Club - The best films of the '00s
This movie ranks #50 in Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films
This movie ranks #78 in Cannes Film Festival - Palme d'Or
This movie ranks #116 in The 21st Century's Most Acclaimed Films
This movie ranks #165 in TimeOut's 1000 Films to Change Your Life
This movie ranks #296 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die