Locating the Sublime Between Movement and Action: The Cinema of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne; Sublime; Kenneth Burke.
This paper locates and examines the sublime moments that emerge from two films written and directed by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne— L’ Enfant (The Child, 2005) and Le Gamin au Vélo (The Kid with the Bike, 2011). The analysis will reveal a new type of cinematic sublime by employing Kenneth Burke’s dramatism and specifically the Act/Purpose ratio. In this new cinematic sublime, ordinary movements become acts of transition and change. The cumulative effect of these moments is a hard-fought moral and spiritual expansion that exists in the present, the here and the now. Through movement and act the sublime emerges as an interaction of levels of existence, united and visible at the same time, giving a new perspective to an otherwise ordinary event that culminates in a “moment of transition from a past to a new state, in the shooting of the gulf, in the darting to the aim . . . that the soul becomes” (Bloom 153). Still frames from the selected films will be used to support the thesis. The selected still film frames will be presented like citations of lines from poetry or excerpts from a narrative text. The sublime moments that emerge from these films highlight a deep vulnerability and resiliency that is the human condition. Additionally, this essay will focus on and reference Francois Lyotard’s interpretation of Immanuel Kant’s idea of the dynamic sublime where “in the circumstance, there is ‘something’ that leaves thought dumbfounded even as it exalts thought” (Lessons on the Analytic 68). Lyotard describes this “something” further as a “differend.” “The differend cannot be resolved. But it can be felt as such, as a differend. This is the sublime feeling” ( 234). A differend, generally speaking, is a conflict between two or more parties/ideas that cannot be equitably resolved. The Dardenne brothers’ work is unique in that it creates a new cinematic sublime as an interaction of levels of existence, united, felt, and visible at the same time, giving a new perspective to otherwise ordinary acts. This new perspective allows for ordinary acts to become agents for transition and change.