Rosetta (Criterion Collection)
The Criterion Collection
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The Belgian filmmaking team of brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (The Kid with a Bike) turned heads with Rosetta, an intense vérité drama that closely follows a poor young woman struggling to hold on to a job to support herself and her alcoholic mother. It’s a swift and simple tale made revelatory by the raw, empathetic way in which the directors render Rosetta’s desperation, keeping the camera nearly perched on her shoulder throughout. Many have copied the Dardennes’ style; few have equaled it. This ferocious film won big at Cannes, earning the Palme d’Or for the filmmakers and the best actress prize for the indomitable Émilie Dequenne (The Girl on the Train).
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Rosetta is an absolutely driven character, almost an animal, single-minded in her goals. Those goals are mundane: find a job, lead a normal life. Her obstacles are mundane: rent, alcoholic mother, cramps. She asks questions, gets her answers, and walks away with no pretense of social grace. For most scenes the camera either points in the direction of Rosetta's POV, over her shoulder, or aims directly into her face. The shot rarely sits still: action and object are the same here. We see what she sees as she sees it and make judgments about people and situations alongside her, a process that usually reveals how silly normal people seem when viewed by someone with no tolerance for nonsense. She does not understand dancing - leisure, or why people would indulge in it when other things need doing, is foreign to her.
Routine fills her existence, and when the routines of friendship and work cannot be found, she constructs new and even unnecessarily complicated routines: cross the road to find the sewer where she hid her boots, change out of shoes into boots to cross the mud to reach the lake where she's set up fish traps with bobbypins and broken bottles, every day. She doesn't even keep the fish. In that way she, like most of us, is completely neurotic - but who has the motivation to carry out their designs with so much determination, in ignorance of those neuroses? Who completely ignores defeat?
I would recommend other Dequenne pictures, but apparently her only other role is alongside Mark Dacascos in the inscrutible Brotherhood of the Wolf. Stick with Rosetta and enjoy.
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