Review: Le Gamin Au Vélo (The Kid With A Bike, 2011)

the kid with a bike

I never had a bike, well, I never learned to ride a bike, I guess that’s why I never had Cyril’s problems!

Written By: Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
Directed By: Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne

I always have a tough time describing a film by Jean Pierre & Luc Dardenne. Everything they do appears to be effortless, as if they think what will happen on screen, and then it happens. How does one go about describing or critiquing a film from two men with such an ability? No matter what I always feel that my review of a Dardenne Brother film comes up short and fails to get the power of their cinema across. Yet, every film I watch from them impacts me in such a way that I want to make sure everyone who reads my blog knows how much I love the Dardenne Brothers as filmmakers. Le Gamin Au Vélo is another seemingly effortless production from the Dardenne Brothers, and I am, yet again, at a loss as to how to adequately critique one of their films.

The direction is probably a good place to start, yes, I suppose that will do. What to say about the direction, that’s where this critique starts getting difficult. In Le Gamin Au Vélo it’s as if the scenes flow across the screen. The Dardenne Brothers aren’t making a movie so much as they are documenting a moment in time in these characters lives. There camera never intrudes, it never feels the need to overtake the drama of the characters lives. To that end at a certain point the characters stop being characters and they become people. Somehow, and in ways I don’t completely understand, the Dardenne Brothers make Le Gamin Au Vélo into an immersive experience. I’m aware that I’m watching a movie, but it doesn’t feel like I am watching a movie. The direction of the Dardenne Brothers is so light that it melts away leaving only the streets of Belgium and people whose lives we are being allowed to access.

The actors kelp with the immersion one feels in a Dardenne Brothers film. The work done by the actors in Le Gamin Au Vélo is no different as they are the people they portray. There’s perhaps no better compliment to give an actor than to say that they were a person and not a character. Thomas Doret wasn’t playing a little boy who was lost, he is a little boy who is lost. The same is true for every actor in Le Gamin Au Vélo, they are real people and the fact that they are real makes it much easier to enter the world of Le Gamin Au Vélo and forget one is watching a motion picture.

A point that I almost always bring up in a review of a Dardenne Brothers film is the way they use music. Le Gamin Au Vélo is not without a score, or background music. However, much of the film is silent and the music we do hear exists only as a necessary in a scene or as an indicator that we can finally begin to breathe and think about the film a little. The music playing when we meet Guy is the main indicator of the type of person Guy happens to be. He wants to vacate the world, leave everything behind and start anew. To that end he has set up a wall with his past life, and the loud music is merely another barrier to keep his son out of his new life. There were two moments, that I can remember at least, where a score kicks in. Just as quickly as the score kicks in it leaves again. It doesn’t serve to heighten emotion or garner a reaction. Rather the score is present to give the audience a chance to ruminate because the directors know the power of the sequence that preceded the score arriving.

I could write and write about Le Gamin Au Vélo, but I’m not sure if I’d be doing more than walking in circles. Every time I watch a movie by the Dardenne Brothers I find new facets of their filmmaking to fall in love with. As I was watching Le Gamin Au Vélo I appreciated every image that fluttered past my eyes. I was struck by the simple beauty of the film the Dardenne Brothers chose to make. More than anything Le Gamin Au Vélo is further proof that the Dardenne Brothers understand and can implement the simple resonance and beauty of cinema like no other.





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