Universal recognition for a universal film

  • 24.05.2011

“The brothers may tell a harsh story, but they also made a film tending towards the light, hope, appeasement, reconstruction,” Jérôme Colin writes in Moustique . “They will show us that only humans can save humans. That you have to fight (if possible together) to push back suffering, to learn to let go of the past. To dare looking straight ahead. In the end, that is exactly what the Dardenne brothers tell, without being heavy or pathetic. In a film with a limpid, clear and simple direction, certain. Leaving the actors enough space to express themselves (the face to face meeting between the boy and his father in the kitchen of a restaurant is terrific). A beautiful film. Without bells and whistles.”

“Are the guys from Seraing more serene?” Fabienne Bradfer asks in Le Soir . “Absolutely, even if their film remains firmly rooted in the here and now and still contains the essentials for a harsh and frontal cinema, pursuing without showing off the violent acknowledgement of the world in which we are living. But we can say there’s been a change in continuity. There is sunlight in all shots, a well-known actress as the fairy godmother and there’s music here and there. Everything is mastered without a hitch.”

There is a lot of talk about the light in the articles dedicated to the film. In Focus Vif, Louis Danvers admits to being touched by Le Gamin which he praises without restraint or false modesty: “Bitter and tearing like the lack of love, tender at the heart like the promise of a future, captivating like a suspense thriller and moving like those Italian neo-realistic films focused on childhood, Le Gamin au Vélo continues in a luminous mode the profoundly humanist work of the Dardennes.”

Not only in Belgium though, are the journalists moved by pure emotion. In Le Monde (link only available for subscribers), Jean-Luc Doulin also speaks of a thriller “exploring the soul by grating the bone, they orchestrate a sentimental thriller, and their moral study is worthy of Emmanuel Levinas. The sentimental suspense is upheld with the certainty that “ethics are an perspective”. The kid from the title is the “pale child” poet Henri Michaux talked about. The rejected child, fallen from the skies, in an affective coma, on the verge of being extinct. Great art.”

Sidt Sakho, journalist for Chronicart is also enthusiast and particularly notes the play of the actors: “Even though the child remains the anchor point of every scene, and nothing in the film moves outside of its presence and its priority relationship to every situation, Cécile de France shines here like she never has before in her role as a mother of the heart, with a mix of real discretion and availability, she is a neutral presence which makes her immediately believable, necessary even. That is also one of the strengths of the Dardenne brothers, their capability to oppose the blind stubbornness of the main character to the evenly matched problem of at least one other, counter Rosetta’s or Cyril’s solipsism with the at once well-willing and resistant attention from Riquet or Samantha. Just for that – but also for the evenly tempered directing – we consider Le Gamin au Vélo from the start as one of the most honest and personified films of the year.”

The characters and the actors playing them, is what particularly struck Fernand Denis in La Libre: “If Cécile de France is “Dardennised” in this role, she shines a new light on their cinema. Thomas Doret then, is one more revelation.”

This young actor found by the Dardenne brothers is being praised in all reviews, without any exceptions. “… The impressive Thomas Doret is one more name on the long list of young talents revealed by the duo. The films of the Dardennes have this living thing that it does not rest on its laurels but dares to confront new obstacles starting on a similar terrain,” says Thierry Chèze in Studio Ciné Live

The unanimous critical acclaim for La Gamin au Vélo stresses how much Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have been able to make their films universal while using a very personal film, without concessions, emphasis or pathos as their starting point. That the new work is so obviously anchored in Seraing is not an obstacle at all: without roots, without an identity, no one can strive for universality.