Jean-Paul and Luc Dardenne talk The Kid With a Bike

Brothers and directors Jean-Paul and Luc Dardenne discuss The Kid With a Bike, opening in New York and Los Angeles March 16

Brothers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne may not be household names here in the States, but they certainly are in rarefied air, since they have done something only five directors have done before. They have won the prestigious Palme D'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival twice (Rosetta 1999, L'Enfant (The Child) 2005), joining Alf Sjoberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Bille August, Emir Kusturica, and Shohei Imamura as the only directors with two Palme D'Or wins. Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne return to cinemas with their latest drama entitled The Kid with a Bike, which opens in New York and Los Angeles March 16, before expanding nationally in the coming weeks. I had the chance to speak with Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne about The Kid with a Bike. Here's what they had to say below.

I read that you had this story in your head for awhile. I was wondering when you started writing it and getting it on the page?

Jean-Pierre Dardenne: I think we started probably around 2005, to write the first pieces, and the boy with the bike showed up first. In the beginning, the boy had the bike more for putting out his anger into the bike, and it was also his only friend. As you saw, the bike became the link in the movie from the boy to all the other characters. But, I would say that the story was really boring when the bike appeared.

This is Thomas Doret's first movie. Can you talk about the process of discovering him, and what qualities were you really looking for when searching for the boy who plays Cyril?

Luc Dardenne: We met him through a casting that we organized ourselves. We always do the casting ourselves. He's the fifth boy that showed up on the first day. We saw about 150 boys, but when we saw him, we were pretty sure, right away, that it was going to be him. We made them do a little audition, a little exercise, which was a smaller version of the first scene. We put him in front of a little table with a phone, and he was holding the receiver, and we said, 'OK, you're calling your father. You've been trying for several days to reach him, you haven't been able to reach him. He told you he'd call you and he hasn't. That's what you're doing. You're trying to reach your father again.' When we shot him, we really had the feeling that, when he was making the call, that somebody else was going to pick up on the other end. And I think it's the power of his concentration that really convinced us. We saw him two subsequent times, while we were still seeing the other boys, and the power of concentration he had really convinced us that was the boy for the part.

I was really impressed by that first scene, because it says so much in those first few minutes, without that much dialogue. It sets the whole story up so well. That's great you chose that scene for the audition.

Jean-Pierre Dardenne: Exactly, thank you!

Can you talk about bringing Cécile De France on board? She had a lot to bring to this role, and it was nice to see her in a role like this. I was curious what you first saw in her, and what you thought she really brought to the character?

Jean-Pierre Dardenne: For us, too, it was a great project to transform her. She came into the movie very simply. She rehearsed with Thomas for 25 days, and in the first part of the rehearsal process, we rehearsed all of the physical action. And at the end of those rehearsal days, we would pick costumes and we would dress her, and every day we would change the costume. We tried to find clothing that didn't close her in, but left her open. We tried to be simple with her hair style, and very little makeup. We had to pick shoes that didn't have very high heels, that were low heels, because we kept the camera at the eye level of Thomas, and we wanted to be able to keep that perspective and to shoot her, without having to distort the camera angle. What was good about the movie is the first scene that Cécile appears in, she falls on the ground. That was something of a metaphor for how we wanted to appear in the movie. She fell into our family, she fell into our universe.

I noticed also the use of music in here, which is very rare for both of you to use. It was used really uniquely, because instead of using music throughout the whole film, it shows up here and there and really heightens the scenes. Can you talk about your approach to using music in The Kid with a Bike?

Luc Dardenne: Well, yes, it's music that doesn't come out of the movie. One could say that it sort of floats above it. It's music that appears like something of a caress, something soft, that Cyril needs, that he's missing. One could say that it sort of demarcates different sections of the movie. But our first aim in using the music was really what is missing for him.

Your work is very highly regarded in France and throughout Europe. With IFC Films picking this up, what would you like American audiences to take away from The Kid with a Bike?

Jean-Pierre Dardenne: Well, I hope the public thinks that love can sometimes be stronger than death. This is a woman who is not the biological mother of a child can learn to love and lead him out of a world of violence, and go towards love.

Is there anything you can say about projects you're currently working on?

Luc Dardenne: No, it's too early.

OK. I really enjoyed this film and I'm looking forward to your next project.

Luc Dardenne: Thank you very much.

Finally, what would you like to say to anyone who is curious about The Kid with a Bike about why they should give it a chance when it hits theaters?

Jean-Pierre Dardenne: I think the public needs to adopt this boy, and love is stronger than death.

Excellent. That's my time. Thanks so much. It was a pleasure talking to you both.

Jean-Pierre Dardenne: Thank you.

Luc Dardenne: Thank you.

You can check out Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne's The Kid with a Bike in New York and Los Angeles theaters March 16. The film will be expanding nationally in the coming weeks, so be sure to check your local listings.