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The Dardennes won’t plant emotions on the moon…

June 3, 2011

“[Experienced actors] close down and protect themselves, and then all you get are the same mannerisms, the same tricks, the same character.”

The Dardenne Brothers explaining why they don’t use movie stars


Sean Penn put on his gay suit, sat behind his office desk and took some charisma out of one of the drawers.

I’m not Sean, I’m Milk.


The sun bounced off the pocket watch like C-beams off the Tanhauser Gate.

‘Follow the watch, and sleep.’

The boy followed the watch and closed his eyes.

‘What do we need?’ asked Dardenne One.

‘Fear,’ said Dardenne Two.

The watch kept swinging even though the boy was no longer aware of it. Dardenne One cleared his throat and spoke:

‘When we run the scene, and you hear the word ‘Awooga’, you will see a savage in front of you. In his hand will be your father’s scalp. In the other hand, a knife. A very big, very sharp knife. You will shit yourself.’

The words stopped, fingers clicked and the boy awoke.

The Dardennes pointed him to his bicycle and told him to start pushing it down the street. The boy nodded and did as he was told.

‘Run camera,’ said Dardenne One.

The camera ran.

‘Push the bike, push the bike, push it…’ whispered Dardenne Two.

The boy pushed the bike.



Kevin Spacey lay back on the bench and gripped the bar.

Mendes lurked like a wolf in the corner, holding up fingers to direct.

‘Have you found the essence, Kev?’

No answer.

Spacey thought back to a time when he’d done smug, to a time when he’d been happy with sudden life changes, to a time when he was virile.

For a moment he thought it was wrong to think, but he double thought and corrected himself. Thinking is the core if there even is a core.

Mendes put up a finger, waited for silence then dropped it back down.

Spacey put Spacey to the back of his head and lifted the bar.



‘I don’t understand…’

‘You’re not annoyed.’

‘I am…’

‘Are not.’

‘I’m trying…I did…’

‘You don’t look anything.’

‘No, I did what you said. I thought of a time when I was annoyed and forgot about what my face was doing. I don’t know why it didn’t translate.’

‘You did not forget your face.’

‘I did…’

‘You were thinking of expressions, not expressing…’

‘No, I…was I?’


The murderer and Dardenne Two stared at each other in silence.

‘You have no face. ‘

‘I don’t?’

‘Your face has left you for another woman.’

‘It has?’

‘It has written a letter saying you were no good and it’s never coming back, not while you’re no good.’

The murderer’s face did whatever a face does when it’s annoyed.

Dardenne One, shrunk to the size of an ant, crawled up the shoulder of his brother and pointed the tiny camera at the murderer.

‘Parfait!’ shouted Dardenne Two, flicking the ant off his shoulder and crushing it into the floor.


‘The real you is Space, and the character is a moon. On the surface of the moon you must position aspects of the character. If the character is an angry man, you must think up objects of anger and plant them in the moon-dirt. If he’s a romantic, it must be hearts and roses. If he’s depressive, it must be burnt houses and beautiful corpses. Etc. Etc. Etc.

When it is time to inhabit the character, you must go to the surface of your moon.

When the scene ends, you can be Space again.

There need be no crossover.

Some will say the surface is false…that the atmosphere around you is problematic as it is empty and inhuman and leads to a performance apart from its viewer…but this is untrue. Everything is a reflection, a performance, surrounded by vacuum, and all you are is prepared and organised.’

Matt Damon yawned and put the book back on the table. He looked around the living room for something to do, but everything was as it should be.

What could he do?

He closed his eyes and drifted in Space a few minutes before spotting a solar flare.

‘Ah…that mess.’

He smiled, grabbed a bin liner and started cleaning up the junk on his moon.


Dardenne Two knelt down over the black speck on the floor and looked for anything that might show him it really was an ant and not his brother.

He pulled out a telescope and stared at what, from a distance, looked like children’s art.

Maybe it’s dust, he thought. Or fluff?

He moved the telescope closer and…there were arms…and legs…and a face…a very squashed, very smug-looking face.


One Comment leave one →
  1. nomorehollywood permalink
    June 9, 2011 5:01 am

    Personally, I love the way they never use professionals or name actors. And they’re right, if you praise a star for their performance you’re praising something they do every time. They have their tricks, like Keira Knightley keeping her mouth open when she’s about to kiss someone but doesn’t.

    I hope they stick with the naturalistic, casavetian movement.

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