"Made in Dardenne" it is already an inescapable label for the cinema of the directors of 'Rosetta' (1999) or 'Two days and one night' ('Deux jours, une nuit', 2014). The Belgian brothers, faithful to their appointment with the Cannes festival, where they won the award as best directors, arrive on the Spanish billboard with 'The young Ahmed' ('Le Jeune Ahmed', 2019).
His style is recognizable at cruising speed by a particular persecutory formalism, with camera on the shoulder, elliptical narration and the continuous search for equidistance in their committed social portraits in an aesthetic exploration that, in his last film, remains neat but without novelty.
On this occasion, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne enter the germ of Islamic fundamentalism with the story of a preteen adept at the radical teachings of his imam who will embark on a crusade Against the impurity of his teacher.
With a marked distance of verista aspiration, the usual one in the work of the filmmakers, the film successfully explores the influence of religious daily life in little Ahmed, with an insistent repetition of the rites of Muslim belief – ablutions and prayers, mostly – and the physical occupation of space by the character.
In fact, the physicality of its protagonist is, as he points out Luc Dardenne in an interview with Espinof in Madrid, one of the keys of the film: "We try to make the film be constructed through Ahmed's body with ablutions, prayers or the knife he hides. We always roll your body and its relationship with its surroundings: he can't touch the dog, he rejects the caress of the girl … The body is the limit of its space. "
Thus, the young man's body is a kind of hermetic chrysalis, with a childish interior flooded by fanaticism coverage. 'Young Ahmed' makes a peculiar approach to the phenomenon of fundamentalism, which the director himself names as "approach jihadism".
"The mosque is close to home, the teacher's house is also in the same area … We wanted to do something in the same neighborhood, therefore it is a very local matter. We saw that by placing the character in an environment this close, the feeling would be even more powerful, more enigmatic, more incomprehensible"explains the filmmaker.
A hint of break in the narrative Dardenne
Despite the fact that the eyes of the filmmakers turn away from any judgment to any of their characters, even the most reprehensible, the complaint is frozen by the coldness of a story starring an automated child and unable to show emotion beyond its outcome. Thus, the dramatic construction of its protagonist, who could well remember 'Summer 1993' – with the obvious distance between them – makes the character look more like a container of influences than a person in training: Ahmed neither feels nor suffers, only It acts under Manichaean creeds of an atrocious fundamentalism.
In this sense, there is a certain break in the narrative secrecy of the directors, as Luc Dardenne points out: "After writing the script, we realized that we could not change the film. We could not make the protagonist meet another character, as we usually do. His fanaticism is so great that he is unable to see those around him, he is absorbed. Hence the end of the film ". Therefore, 'The young Ahmed' moves away in this sense from the filmography of the filmmakers, where the protagonists usually find some glimmer of redemption in other characters that help them.
This would also explain the analysis of the phenomenon according to the directors: children are only recipients of external stimuli that are formed around their context, which absorb everything they have around them until they end up forming their own character and personality. Hence the importance for Ahmed of the time he spends on the farm, where he is attracted to the owners' daughter, and his particular relationship with animals, which seem to function as catalysts of his psychopathy and balance his balance between childhood and barbarism.
And although 'The young Ahmed' accuses some exhaustion of the Dardenne formula, the staging of the directors is a capital influence on the portentous 'The daughter of a thief'. The debut of Belén Funes combines the same tensions as the refined formalism of Belgian directors, and while the mechanisms of the latter resent the exhausting repetition of their aesthetic strategies, the Spanish director finds in her brilliant final plane the support that justifies the camera on the shoulder as a formal unifying commitment of class complaint, precariousness and unusual hot finding.
The problem of "unique culture"
Beyond his last film, Luc Dardenne highlights the difficulty of art and culture in finding his place in academic training. "Arts education pales, There is a unique culture plagued towards action or Marvel cinema. And why not? But that causes less diversity that before ", stands out in similar lines to those defended by Martin Scorsese." When films that are not blockbusters or ticket offices are shown, they also work, there is an answer among the public, "recalls the director in statements endorsed by phenomena such as 'Parasites' , Palme d'Or in Cannes and unanimous success of public and critics.
The director, asked about Robert McKee's incendiary opinions regarding cinematographic authorship, which for the American guru falls to writers, states with laughter that he makes these statements "because he is a screenwriter." Of course, the producer clarifies: "It is true that with the series, the writers are much more important. If Tarantino, David Lynch or Jane Campion make a series, it's different, but in the series there is no brand, the ones that matter are the screenwriters. "
In fact, the director also points out the contempt for the script in European cinema. "The cinema of the Nouvelle Vague presumed to be a 'cinema without a script', but Truffaut took great care of this aspect. He transgressed the rules because he knew them very well", highlights. Of course, although the balance has been balanced in recent times, Luc Dardenne is clear: "In the cinema, the importance of the director remains indisputable".