November 13, 2014

The Dardenne Brothers Present Two Days, One Night

After almost four decades of working together, internationally acclaimed filmmaking duo Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are so in sync, they seem like one person. “We’ve been working together for 38 years. And before that, we lived together. It’s not the same as someone who just comes to collaborate,” said Jean-Pierre on his partnership with his brother. He explained that over time, they’d grown to share the same artistic vision and sensibilities, and as such, rarely had disputes. “The casting, the rehearsals, the directing – everything – we do it all together,” said Jean-Pierre. “In a way, we become one person. But only for a time.”

Luc Dardenne, Alex Ago, and Jean-Pierre Dardenne

The two-time Palme d'Or winners and longtime Cannes favorites discussed their long working partnership, storied careers in film, and filmmaking process in an extended question and answer session on November 6th at the School of Cinematic Arts after the screening of their latest critically adored French-language film, Two Days, One Night (Deux jours, une nuit) starring Marion Cotillard. The screening was part of SCA’s “Outside the Box Office” series hosted by Alex Ago.

Two Days, One Night follows a woman named Sandra (Cotillard) struggling with depression while being quietly forced out of her job as a factory worker by opportunistic upper management. Spurred on by the need to support her family, she defends her livelihood with increasing conviction as she battles not only the considerable odds against her, but her own anxieties as well.

While Two Days, One Night is the first of the Brothers’ projects with a major film star in the lead role, the film follows their long tradition of telling deeply humanistic stories, such as in their award-winning projects Rosetta (1999) and L’Enfant (2005). It was this impassioned, personal vision, said Luc Dardenne that made Cotillard continue to want to work with them despite the significant changes made to her role over time. Their considerable ability to coax out intimate, realistic performances has been key to their success as filmmakers and is integral to the stories they want to tell.

“We work with the actors very physically,” said Luc Dardenne, on the process of capturing nuanced performances on film. “We work on all of the of physical movements of the characters and the actors: how to fall, how to sit, how to put things in a bag, what’s in the bag, how to take things out of the bag. Working on that kind of physicality and movement is how the actors find the characters.”

The discussion was a master-class in filmmaking, worthwhile for all fans and students of the cinematic arts. Watch the full Q&A session below: