The Dardenne brothers are masters at visually representing the lives of their characters. For example, in Rosetta, which followed the experiences of an abused girl living in poverty, the camerwork was shaky, jagged, and rushed, just like her day-to-day experience. In The Unknown Girl, we follow someone who is more stable, so the camerawork is also more stable – yet, it’s those moments where the stability falls to the wayside we should note.
The Dardenne brothers make audience members feel as if they’re accompanying their protagonists by having us shadow their day-to-day lives. In the case of The Unknown Girl, it’s as if we’re interning for Dr. Jenny Davin (Adéle Haenel) who is, for the most part, a kind and conscientious physician. Dr. Davin may ask you to sort files or fetch coffee, but sticking with her through the minutiae pays off as the good doctor finds herself in a moral quandary.
Dr. Davin unwittingly takes a series of actions that cause her intern (a memorably sensitive Olivier Bonnaud) to want to give up medicine forever. These series of actions also lead to the death of a woman who is unable to be identified. Dr. Davin tries to put a name to the face and buys a grave for the body she feels responsible for. An aspect I enjoyed about Two Days, One Night was watching Marion Cotillard ask her co-workers the same question over and over again. This tactic is also used (to less interesting effect) by Dr. Davin as she inexpertly leads her own investigation.
*ACCESSIBILITY FACT: Her practice is not wheelchair accessible.
Sunday, Sept. 11, 9:15pm @ Visa Screening Room
Thursday, Sept. 15, 1:30pm @ Winter Garden Theatre
Michael McNeely is a deaf-blind film critic and an advocate for greater accessibility in our cinemas. Read more about his story here.