Mandwa film screening: The Son: a complex story told with simplicity

Film appeals to artful independent film enthusiasts


Our Correspondent November 08, 2015
Film appeals to artful independent film enthusiasts

ISLAMABAD: National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage (Lok Virsa) screened the French classic ‘The Son’ (Le Fils) under its Mandwa Film Club on Saturday evening.

Released in 2002, The Son is directed by Belgian-French filmmaking brothers, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne.

The film’s story revolves around Olivier, a carpenter who teaches at a vocational training centre for troubled boys. His world is shaken with the arrival of Francis, a mysterious 16-year-old boy who happens to be the murderer of Olivier’s son. It is this past tragedy that connects the two.

Francis however is unaware of his connection with the carpenter. Olivier, who is devastated by the loss of his son and divorce from his wife, develops an obsession with Francis. He stalks his home, steals his keys and explores his apartment whilst struggling to maintain a professional distance in Francis’ presence. On the other hand, Francis looks up to Olivier, seeing him as a surrogate role-model.

The film showcases Olivier’s moral ambiguity, as he is torn between hatred for his son’s murderer, and accepting a troubled youth from a shattered past.

Once Francis’ dark past is revealed to him, Olivier is forced to come to terms with a complex range of emotions. Olivier’s ex-wife, Magali, is bewildered at his decision to take the murderer of his son into his workshop.

Obsessing over Francis seems to give Olivier a sense of comfort, and helps him understand his son’s murder. It also seems to give meaning to his life, by helping a troubled youth during a difficult time.

The film is a low-budget production; simple in its execution, yet gripping in complexity.

Its lack of action, dialogue and music however, make it a bland watch. The rawness of the footage aims to capture the morality and banality of everyday life, and is definitely not for box-office aficionados, but rather for artful independent film enthusiasts.

The Son was awarded the André Cavens Award for best film by the Belgian film critics association. The film’s lead actor, Olivier Gourmet, won best actor at the 2002 Cannes film festival.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2015.

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