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La Promesse

4.3 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

La Promesse draws on the considerable documentary acumen of its directors, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne ("Rosetta"), to prove a revelation in narrative filmmaking. Shot on the outskirts of an industrial city in Belgium, the film follows Igor (J?©r?©mie R?©nier), the 15-year-old son of a single parent named Roger (Olivier Gourmet) who rents squalid apartments to recently arrived immigrants, many of them illegal. As Igor struggles to hold down odd jobs while assisting his father in crooked dealings, the Dardenne brothers plunge the audience into the thick of difficult issues--immigration, cultural and racial bias, bureaucratic injustices--without overtly politicizing or diminishing any of their characters. When Igor promises to help a young African woman, he finds he must choose between loyalty to his father and his own conscience. The beauty is in how the Dardenne brothers seem to share in the viewer's curiosity about the film's outcome, having captured a world so charged yet unadorned you feel the surprise of each new scene alongside the directors. An extraordinary film that bears repeated viewings. "--Fionn Meade"

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La Promesse draws on the considerable documentary acumen of its directors, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (Rosetta), to prove a revelation in narrative filmmaking. Shot on the outskirts of an industrial city in Belgium, the film follows Igor (Jérémie Rénier), the 15-year-old son of a single parent named Roger (Olivier Gourmet) who rents squalid apartments to recently arrived immigrants, many of them illegal. As Igor struggles to hold down odd jobs while assisting his father in crooked dealings, the Dardenne brothers plunge the audience into the thick of difficult issues--immigration, cultural and racial bias, bureaucratic injustices--without overtly politicizing or diminishing any of their characters. When Igor promises to help a young African woman, he finds he must choose between loyalty to his father and his own conscience. The beauty is in how the Dardenne brothers seem to share in the viewer's curiosity about the film's outcome, having captured a world so charged yet unadorned you feel the surprise of each new scene alongside the directors. An extraordinary film that bears repeated viewings. --Fionn Meade

Special Features

  • Photo Gallery

Product Details

  • Actors: Jérémie Renier, Olivier Gourmet, Assita Ouedraogo, Jean-Michel Balthazar, Frédéric Bodson
  • Directors: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
  • Writers: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
  • Producers: Luc Dardenne, Claude Waringo, Hassen Daldoul
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Italian
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: New Yorker Video
  • DVD Release Date: March 19, 2002
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005UK01
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,051 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "La Promesse" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
If you haven't seen this one, well... Its emotional impact on me was devastating. I saw it when it opened, and a friend and I, who are normally quite talkative after a good movie, walked at least two city blocks afterwards before either of us said a word. I compare it in style to "The Dreamlife of Angels" (hand-held cameras, naturalistic acting, a plot that unfolds gradually and builds to a harrowing finale, and no musical score) and in theme to, of all things, "The Apartment" (main character is waist-deep in wrongdoing but has a crisis of conscience that forces him to re-evaluate himself and his actions). Please find a copy somehow, or go ahead and spend the money here -- I don't want Amazon to get angry with me.
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Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
This is not a warm fuzzy picture by any means, but it is film for people who love people and appreciate the higher instincts of mankind that transcend nationality, race, gender, and age. Does one follow instinctual bonds to family, or honor and committment to a worthy promise.
I absolutely loved this film...and so did my Parisian friends to whom I recommended it.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Belgium documentary film makers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne deliver an unflinching glimpse into the horrors and exploitation of undocumented workers and the opportunistic people who prey on them in order to improve their own sordid, wretched lives. The directors also have an amazing eye for casting as all the actors are so natural that you think you are watching a documentary, rather than a compassionate piece of fiction.

The heart and soul of the piece is Igor portrayed by a stunning looking fifteen year old Jérémie Rénier (Summer Hours (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]) in an amazing first performance. Every good story needs a great villain and here it supplied by Igor's father Roger in a bravura performance by Olivier Gourmet (Rosetta [Region 2 Import - Non USA Format]). The lying, cheating, brutal Roger exploits everyone near him and even though he loves him, poor Igor is no exception.

The motherless boy has been pulled out of school under the pretense of an apprenticeship so his dad can use him to help run the family business of human trafficking. Absent of any moral teachings or decent role model, Igor is no angel himself:an expert forger of fake identities, purse snatcher, and lying to immigration officers. However, he is still a mechanically inclined 12 year old who snatches a few precious minutes to work on a motorized soap box type car with his friends and paints his dingy teeth with white-out to mimic the dazzling smiles of the Africans whose passports he is altering.
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Format: DVD
I've seen most of the Dardenne Brothers' movies by now--"The Son," "The Child," "The Kid with a Bike"--but "La Promesse" is my favorite of a very distinguished group of films. The Dardennes have staked out a very particular cinematic territory--the lives of criminals, bums and down-and-outers in the dreary industrial town of Liege, Belgium. From that they have created a distinctive, pure, intense cinematic style, in which their characters are presented with the starkest, most painful moral choices possible. It's Greek tragedy, as funneled through Vittorio de Sica and Robert Bresson.

"La Promesse" stars two of the Dardennes' regular actors, Olivier Gourmet and Jeremie Renier. Igor (Renier) is a 15-year-old delinquent who helps his father Roger (Gourmet) exploit African and Eastern European immigrants for profit. When one of their workers dies in an accident, Roger tries to cover it up, but Igor finds himself feeling concern for the dead man's widow and baby. Igor's budding conscience leads him to an agonizing point of no return.

"La Promesse" follows the usual pattern of the Dardennes' films: a plain, starkly realistic setting, shot mostly in claustrophobic closeup, with extreme situations and emotions leading to an ending in which no closure or resolution is possible. The actors could not be better; Gourmet is particularly fine as a despicable monster who has convinced himself he is only doing what he must to support his family. Simple and powerful, "La Promesse" will leave you with a heartache that will last for days.
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Format: DVD
Documentary filmmakers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne bring a particularly convincing sense of real life captured on film with this their first fiction film. The hand-held camera and location settings and the abrupt edits that propel the story forward, together with a very unromanticized subject, make this fictional world completely believable as a slice of life lived by men and women on the fringes of law-abiding society. With young Igor (Jérémie Rénier), a teenager older than his years, at the center of the story, we learn of illegal aliens and those who profit by providing them with shelter and work in the gray urban landscape of a northern European city.

Rénier's performance is remarkable, as is that of his unpleasant father played by Olivier Gourmet. The camera simply watches them without comment, functioning in an amoral universe, until a fatal accident brings about a sudden change of heart for the young Igor and a commitment, against all odds, to make right something that has gone horribly wrong. The movie avoids sentimentality and takes you relentlessly to an end that leaves us, the characters walking away, their dilemma unresolved. An excellent film for anyone who likes thoughtful renderings of real life concerns. See also the Dardenne's more recent film, "L'Enfant," also starring Renier.
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