Cinema - L’Enfant
It is some artistic feat to get an audience to sympathise
with a character who seemingly has no redeeming features.
In L’Enfant, the film which won the prestigious Palm
D’Or award in the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, the directors
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne achieve just that. The movie
opens with waif-like 18-year-old Sonia (Deborah François)
returning to her flat with her newborn baby to find that her
boyfriend Bruno (Jeremie Renier) has sub-let it to strangers.
We realise that this sort of behaviour is normal from Bruno
– he lives his life panhandling, begging and burgling.
“Jobs are for losers,” he says, when he gets the
chance to earn some honest money. Shortly into the film, while
Sonia is waiting in line for some benefit money, he makes
himself scarce and sells the baby to an adoption agency for
a wad of cash. “Where’s Jimmy?” asks Sonia,
when she gets back. “I sold him,” he replies,
matter of factly.
L’Enfant is not a comfortable film to watch. The Dardenne
brothers made their name making harsh documentaries about
the realities of life on the margins of society in grotty
industrial Belgian cities. L’Enfant dramatises these
realities: Bruno is suddenly out of his depth as he comes
to terms with the consequences of his actions, and tries,
in his own way, to redeem himself. ‘What a bastard,’
you think, as you start rooting for him. It’s a powerful,
unforgettable and tragic journey. DL