Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Arta Dobroshi

Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Arta Dobroshi

Method Muse

Tom Dawson talks to Jean-Pierre Dardenne and his latest muse Arta Dobroshi about The Silence of Lorna

So what’s their secret? In film after film Belgian filmmakers the Dardenne brothers have cast unknown actors and elicited powerfully naturalistic performances from them: think of Jérémie Renier in La Promesse, Emilie Dequenne in Rosetta, Morgan Marinne in The Son, Deborah Francois in The Child and now the Kosovan Arta Dobroshi, who plays the title character in their latest feature The Silence of Lorna.

‘There is no secret,’ smiles Jean-Pierre Dardenne. ‘Just a lot of hard work in the casting. There are two things that are important. We look for somebody who is capable of embodying the character and we also look for somebody who will bring their own qualities to enrich the character.’

The Dardennes usually spend a month to six weeks rehearsing with their actors, before starting the actual shoot. They call this period ‘the time of infiltration’, and it takes place on the locations that will be used in the film. What they don’t do is discuss the psychological motivations of their characters. ‘A lot of our rehearsals are about the actors moving around from A to B, and their gestures,’ continues Jean-Pierre. ‘Our stories tend to be about characters who have been grabbed by a fate they are trying to escape.’

The 29-year-old Dobroshi, who unlike many of the Dardennes’ discoveries already had acting experience prior to the film, recalls the drawn-out process by which she was cast as Lorna. First she attended a five-minute audition in Pristina. Two weeks later she was asked to meet the Dardennes in Sarajevo, where they spent the day filming her. Then she went to Liege for a couple of days to rehearse some scenes with her co-stars. Only then was she told that she had the part, and that she would have to learn French and cut her long hair.

The Dardennes are famous for their perfectionist approach to the shooting of their films, insisting on multiple takes, yet Dobroshi points out that they are very open to the suggestions. And she herself willingly immersed herself in the character of Lorna. ‘During the movie I didn’t go out with the cast or crew. I went for walks or went swimming on my own. I wanted to get used to how Lorna was. When you live the character you don’t have to think about acting.’

The Silence of Lorna, GFT, Glasgow from Fri 9–Sun 11 Jan.

The Silence of Lorna (Le silence de Lorna)

  • 3 stars
  • 2008
  • Belgium/UK/France/Italy/Germany
  • 1h 45min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
  • Cast: Arta Dobroshi, Jeremie Renier, Fabrizio Rongione

A young Albanian woman (Dobroshi) dreams of opening a snack bar with her boyfriend. To raise the money she participates in a scam organised by petty criminal Fabio (Rongione). With its Bressonian themes of guilt and redemption, the concentration on symbolic objects, and the hardscrabble milieu in which a lonely soul…

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