There is a palpable spirit of Robert Bresson (most notably Pickpocket and L’Argent) and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment at work in Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s L’Enfant, so it comes as no surprise that during the subsequent Q&A, the brothers remarked that one of the images that they had wanted to capture in the film was how the fallen hero, a petty thief and new father Bruno (Jérémie Régnier), learns to “see the woman facing him”. This woman (Déborah François), appropriately named Sonia, is a Dostoevsky archetypal character: devoted, suffering, taken for granted. As in the Dardenne’s earlier film, The Son, the “child” of the film is also a figurative embodiment of redemption that is defined by more than one character: the newborn son Jimmy who is sold by his father on a whim, the immature Bruno, a flightly and rootless young man who sees his son as a disposable accessory, the band of young boys recruited by Bruno to perpetrate the petty crimes for a share of the profits. In this respect, the repeated shots of Bruno aggressively pushing the pram through the streets (and subsequently, in a situational permutation of him pushing a scooter) becomes a refiguration of Raskolnikov’s dream: an image of burden, reluctant responsibility, and duty.
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