Rosetta (1999)
Luc Dardenne, Jean-Pierre Dardenne


RosettaDardenne brothers’ finest film Rosetta (1999) is what remains after you have run it through all possible theoretical discourses. (Funny as it sounds, for all its anti-psychological bent, Dardennes’ cinema lends itself best to psychoanalysis, with abounding mother-son, mother-daughter and father-son relationships across the films). A genuinely humanistic work that just can not be accommodated without conflict into a single, rigid world view, Rosetta finds the Dardennes’ hand-held, long-shot, “being there” realism at the peak of its prowess. There is a keen sense of space, of lived time and of felt experiences here. With an astonishing, naturalistic sound design that carries as much importance as the image (the irritating noise of the moped, for instance, virtually reveals the whole dynamics of specific scenes, without the help of a single image), There is no moral simplification or any sort of condescension that marks many otherwise empathetic films dealing with the working class. Through Rosetta’s actions, which cannot be easily classified into right and wrong, the Dardennes provoke a reassessment of the audience’s own political stance (especially the liberal one, wherein the just and the lawful are generally assumed to be at loggerheads with each other). More than any other of their films, it is here that we sense and feel the physicality of the Dardennes’ unvarnished world the most. When Rosetta (Émilie Dequenne) is pushed into the bog, we choke, when she finds her drunkard mother down at the doorstep, we let out a sigh of exhaustion and when she struggles to carry the gas cylinder home to do the unthinkable, we want to reach out and take it away from her hands. Harsh, harsh, harsh, harsh, harsh, just harsh.