Precarity, Liminality, Mobility: Childhood in the Cinema of The Dardenne Brothers

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This article argues that the work of the Dardenne Brothers can be seen to express a rejection of the child as the embodiment of futurity, rather their films articulate a more fatalistic vision. Using the work of Pamela Robertson Wojcik, this article positions the Dardenne’s treatment of the child as an example of “slow death cinema” (Robertson Wojcik, 2021) an extension of Laurent Berlant’s conception of the “slow death”(2007). In these film’s children are not orientated towards a hopeful and socially mobile conception of adulthood but rather left to explore the micro-borders of Seraing, moving through and engaging with this depressed geography without ever transcending, leaving or developing beyond it. These children are representative of a “perpetual motion in place” (Robertson Wojcik, 2021), in that they move constantly - on bikes, trains, busses, cars and motorbikes - but never leave. Whilst there may be some moments of moral or interpersonal development, children within the films of the Dardenne’s are an expression of an ultimately ambiguous rather than a hopeful future. This article argues that this physical precarity and immobility is tied to questions of class and inequality and is expressed as an aspect of the Dardenne’s rigorous aesthetic approach. It suggests that whilst, the Dardenne’s largely avoid explicit investigation of the systems that underpin social-inequality they explore these themes tacitly- and most productively in their use of the child.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages16
JournalStudies in European Cinema
Early online date4 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2024


  • Dardenne
  • childhood
  • precarity
  • movement
  • European Cinema


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