Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Movie Day Reviews

The Son (2002): The Dardennes brothers' camera follows the back of a man's head. His name is Olivier. He seems to be a teacher in carpentry, instructing teen boys woodworking skills. He talks on the phone. He looks worried. He stares off into space. He peers into an office. He runs down the hall. He begins to follow a particular boy, first down hallways, then down the street, awkwardly staring. The camera follows.

Such is the Dardennes brothers' Cannes award-winner, The Son (Le Fils). For much of the film, we gaze at the back of Olivier's balding head. We observe. We're generally unsure of what he's thinking or feeling, apart from brief moments of clarity. We're also unsure of why the camera is following this man, why he should be the subject of our study. Slowly but surely, the Dardennes reveal more and more--an ex-lover, the identity of the boy, and the haunting pain that resides in Olivier's heart.

I don't want to reveal too much about the plot, as this a film to simply experience, mystery and all. There's also enough ambiguity to the characters' internal workings that the film is open to numerous interpretations. Especially the ending. It is abrupt and confusing, yet somehow poignant and true. Why? This is ultimately a film about grace, and grace simply doesn't make sense. When Olivier is confronted about his abnormal actions, he cannot give a defense. Grace changes us. It is unmerited favor; an outsider would judge Olivier's actions as foolishness at best, insanity at worst. Yet grace is the modus operandi of our Creator, and when we see it as the beautiful truth the Dardennes present, it has the power to affect us, alter us, and draw us a little bit closer to God. The Son is slow, meditative, and perplexing. It is a film worthy of one's observation and contemplation. Perhaps Fredrick Beuchner says it best:
Listen to your life.
See it for the fathomless mystery that it is.
In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement
and gladness:
touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden part of it,
because in the last analysis all moments are key moments,
and life itself is grace.

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