Monday, May 18, 2015

The Dardenne Brothers: 'Rosetta' (1999)

In Rosetta (1999), another independent Belgian Walloon film gem by the Dardenne Brothers, there's a woman in trouble. No, there are two women in trouble: the 17-year old title character Rosetta (played by Émilie Dequenne, who won the Palme d'Or for her efforts) and her mother. They live in a Belgian trailer park sadly called "The Grand Canyon;" Mommie Dearest gives mended clothes to Rosetta to sell in town while she trades sex for booze, rent and utilities with the trailer manager and other "friends." Rosetta wants out of the situation -- i.e., she wants to save her mother and herself -- by finding a stable job. For various reasons, this proves to be an elusive goal.
Several details of the film stick to mind. Rosetta has specific ways of getting through each day despite suffering stomach aches. Some of them are crafty, some of them self-defeating. She catches fish in a large, mud-slicked pond with a broken glass bottle, hook and bait -- very clever. She hides her wading boots in a dirty little culvert (dubious). She wears the same town clothes pretty much every day, hand washing them outside the trailer. She drinks water from the same dirty little water bottle. She always runs across traffic to get to and from her trailer park, via a creepy wooded area. She has a terrible temper and a propensity to fight. She projects onto a temporary co-worker, the waffle-maker Riquet, the ways of her mother's male "friends." Maybe she's right to do so, but she needs to make friends, some kind of social connection, or she will either go crazy or worse. What's gonna happen? 
The Dardenne Brothers are cool filmmakers. Above all, Rosetta is in no way a sentimental movie; in fact, it's quite visceral and absorbing -- the Zen of Purgatory. They seem to enjoy showing patterns of daily life; they are not afraid to show habits and repeated processes for emphasis.

Finally, it's worth noting that Olivier Gourmet, who plays the waffle kingpin in Rosetta, also appears in other Dardenne films. Here, his character is that of a slightly smarmy boss.

Today's Rune: Strength.   

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds like a very rough movie to watch emotionally. these kinds of movies so often tear me up inside.