'Kid With A Bike' The Latest From Dardenne Brothers

Mar 16, 2012
Originally published on March 16, 2012 10:03 pm
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The Belgian filmmaking brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, have won dozens of major international awards and they did it again with their latest movie. "The Kid with a Bike" won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes last year. Today, it opens in some U.S. theaters and Howie Movshovitz of Colorado Public Radio tells us it's a story that goes well beyond a boy and his bicycle.

HOWIE MOVSHOVITZ, BYLINE: Cyril is 11 years old. He doesn't seem to have a mother and he's been abandoned by his father. In total desperation in a medical office waiting room, he throws himself at a complete stranger named Samantha and begs her to take him in.


JOE MORGENSTERN: One of the hallmarks of the Dardenne brothers' movies is that there's always a soul at risk.


MOVSHOVITZ: Joe Morganstern is film critic for the Wall Street Journal.

MORGENSTERN: They're always interested in moral issues. There's a moral urgency to everything they do that shines through the quasi-realistic look of the film.

MOVSHOVITZ: Morgenstern says the scene in the waiting room is thrilling because it's so unexpected and that's exactly what co-writer and director Jean-Pierre Dardenne wants.

JEAN-PIERRE DARDENNE: (Through Translator) We like to plunge the viewer into the scene without having had any exposition, particularly, before the scene happens. We just like to throw them into it.

MOVSHOVITZ: Jean-Pierre's brother Luc adds that explaining too much in a film gives an audience a false sense of understanding.

LUC DARDENNE: (Through Translator) It's not that we don't want any psychology. It's just that we feel that, when we give a psychological explanation, we've told everything. For instance, if we say, well, Samantha was not able to have a child or she's wanted to have a child for a long time, we feel that we're giving an explanation to the viewer who then, in turn, feels that he or she has understood everything.

MOVSHOVITZ: The Dardennes say they want the audience to experience the unexpected force of an unexplained event. To do that, they shoot with a handheld camera to make the visual image appear unstable and, as Luc Dardenne explains, they move the camera as if it's trying to keep up with the reality that's always a bit ahead of it and the audience.

DARDENNE: (Through Translator) We try to place our camera in a way - position it so that there are obstacles, almost as if the reality that we're filming is refusing that our camera find the right place. So since the camera is not in the right position, it's almost like a documentary. We'd like to see the entire face, but we can't quite.

MOVSHOVITZ: The feeling of not quite getting there adds up to a picture of a boy frantic to find stability and, even more than that, the love of a parent. The only thing he has is his bike and, until he finds Samantha, it's his escape and his identity.

MORGENSTERN: The bike is, for a while, the father.

MOVSHOVITZ: Critic Joe Morgenstern says that "The Kid With a Bike" has a quality that's at the heart of other films by the Dardennes.

MORGENSTERN: When I discovered the Dardennes and that film that I loved so, "The Promise," I described it in my review as a modern masterpiece about the possibility of kindness. They use decisive moments like no one I've ever seen in the movies.

MOVSHOVITZ: The Dardennes capture the possibility of kindness in "The Kid With a Bike" by shooting in the bright light of summer. Jean-Pierre Dardenne.

DARDENNE: (Through Translator) We always saw this film as needing to be shot in the summer. We felt that the sun, which is present, basically, throughout the whole movie, was like a ray of warmth piercing through the film the way Samantha is and that the sun and this woman were important because they had to warm up Cyril to bring him back to life.

MOVSHOVITZ: But for Cyril, it's a long ride and it doesn't end with the credits. For NPR News, I'm Howie Movshovitz.


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