Tuesday, August 15, 2017

208. Belgian directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s film “Le gamin au vélo” (The Kid with a Bike) (2011) (Belgium) based on the directors’ original screenplay: Painful yet uplifting film that forces you to re-evaluate human behaviour and your own actions

"We tend to think that the closer one gets to the cup, to the hand, to the mouth whose lips are drinking, the more one will be able to feel something invisible—a dimension we want to follow and which would be otherwise less present in the film… Perhaps by filming the gesture as precisely as possible you can render apprehensible that which is not seen.” —Luc Dardenne, “Taking the Measure of Human Relationships”, Cineaste (Summer 2003)

We don’t believe that music should come from the movie. Music is above the film actually. It will descend into the film thanks to Samantha (the character). For us, music represents everything that is missing to Cyril (the character): love, tenderness, and consolation. It’s hovering, waiting, and the audience would like to see it enter the film. We’re not against music. It’s not present in our other movies only because we didn’t see the necessity for it.” (On using music for the first time in their movies.) --Luc Dardenne’s response to interviewer Ariston Anderson in Filmmaker Magazine.
The Belgian film The Kid with a Bike (2011) is outstanding for several reasons.
The Belgian directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are able to elicit an exceptional performance from young actor Thomas Doret, who plays the 12-year-old boy Cyril, abandoned by his biological parents in an orphanage of sorts. Doret brings on screen the life of Cyril, who loves and misses his father in the orphanage like facility and craves his father’s company. He brings on screen his violent and disobedient side of his character. The viewer does not like him but the director script a tale for the viewer to gradually empathize with Cyril until you begin to love the kid anew. The Dardenne brothers are adept at getting amazing performances of their lead actors: one would recall the amazing performance of Marion Cotillard in their recent work Two Days, One Night (2014). The difference is that Ms Cotillard is an adult and an experienced actress, but young Thomas Doret was an early teen making his first film appearance in The Kid with a Bike.
Cyril (Thomas Doret) with his bike, riding a bus

The second important facet is that the tale is an original script written by the directors. It is not an adaptation of an existing written work or even a true event. The script is so well crafted that you almost believe you are watching a documentary.
Thirdly, the Dardenne brothers mirror the social problems of contemporary Europe in The Kid with a Bike—the toll on the children of broken marriages the parent refuse to acknowledge, the importance a single parent gives to economic survival over parental responsibility, the knee-jerk reaction of another parent to protect a son who might have killed another, the inability to accept an apology.. The list goes on. What is amazing is that this directorial duo is able to make films that reflect contemporary problems with original scripts—film after film.
Finally, the duo makes films where the visual detail is paramount while the soundtrack records diagetic sound almost all the time. In The Kid with a Bike, for the first time, the directors use the music of Beethoven briefly.
It is, therefore, no surprise that the film won the Grand Prix of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival and the Best Screenplay honor at the European Film Awards.
Cyril meets up with his father who tells him
 that he should not try to meet him again

Many critics have connected the film to two famous film classics: De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief and Truffaut’s 400 Blows. These are misplaced comparisons save for certain common factors. The Italian film is about a father searching for a stolen bike in the company of his son. The Kid with a Bike, on the other hand, is the son searching for a bike originally gifted by his father, then eventually sold by him, then a similar bike is purchased by a foster parent figure only to be stolen again for a while. The Italian film has an unbroken bond between father and son, which is not the case in the Belgian film. The French film likewise has a kid with a mother and a non-biological father faced with a troubled childhood as a result of the parents’ behaviour towards him.
The Kid with a Bike is thus different and unique.  Most of all it has an angelic beautician named Samantha (Cecile De France) who becomes Cyril’s foster mother—the first significant female figure in Cyril’s life. Samantha buys Cyril’s bike from her own savings. She tries to protect Cyril and even chooses a life with Cyril over a life with her existing boyfriend.
Cyril with Samantha (Cecile De France), the foster mother,
who gives up her boyfriend for bringing up Cyril

For the Dardenne brothers, the women figures seem to be important. The men are interested in their survival, but women are often shown as the caring and relatively balanced figures.
Cyril rides a bike--the symbolic connection with his father, only to realize
his father had sold it off without his knowledge.
Cinematographer Marcoen at work.

Films of the Dardenne brothers might be on troubled subjects but their effect on the viewer is generally uplifting. Like the British director Ken Loach, the Dardenne brothers primarily deal with the working class. There is no sentimentality, with minor details captured visually. There is a third important member of the Dardenne team contributing to their notable films--cinematographer Alain Marcoen, often relying on hand-held cameras--a contributor few have noticed and rarely lauded. And he is good. A fourth regular on their team is editor Marie-Helene Dozo. It is is interesting to note how the best directors today (Andrei Zvyagintsev, Andrei Konchalovsky, Ken Loach, etc.) work with a close-knit team, film after film, and their products are all award-winning films that make you think. The lovely scripts of the Dardenne brothers include hard-hitting spoken words. Very few filmmakers today make films like they do while eliciting immaculate performances, film after film, from their actors to boot. 

P.S. This critic has reviewed the Dardenne brothers 2014 film Two Days, One Night earlier on this blog. (You can access each review by clicking on the name of the film). The Dardenne brothers are among the top 15 favourite active filmmakers of the author. (The full list can be accessed at http://www.imdb.com/list/ls064262544/)

No comments :