Rosetta (1999)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Psychological Drama  |   Release Date - Nov 5, 1999 (USA)  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - Belgium , France   |   MPAA Rating - R
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The Dardennes brothers' unflinching portrait of an impoverished young Belgian girl ranks with the neo-realist masterpieces of De Sica and Rossellini. Rosetta (Émilie Dequenne) is a grim-visaged 18-year-old girl who desperately seeks a job which will allow her to escape the wretched trailer she shares with her alcoholic, layabout mother (Anne Yernaux). A film of nearly unbearable physical intensity, it plunges the viewer into the life of the immiserated girl so completely that one forgets that any other world could exist. Shooting with a handheld camera, the directors provide no aesthetic distancing, no opportunity for reflection, and no emotional respite from the suffering of the girl, whose soul is so knotted with anger and loneliness that she's nearly as unreachable as the feral boy in Truffaut's L'Enfant Sauvage (1970). Her suspicious, awkward reaction to the sympathetic overtures of a boy (Fabrizio Rongione) who runs a waffle stand painfully reveal how much damage she's already sustained. Indeed, it's the film's most disturbing insight that even after Rosetta has secured a measure of the normalcy she has so hungrily sought, her inability to enjoy her new state suggests that the scars inflicted on her by a cruelly indifferent society are irrevocable. Dequenne is astonishing as this creature, who she has fashioned less a young girl than a vulnerable, wounded animal. Although the film has been compared to Bresson's Mouchette (1967) and the films of De Sica, it lacks the former's sense of Christian redemption and the latter's sentimentality. But the spirit of fierce integrity which permeates the film is that of unique and visionary artists. The winner of the Palme D'Or at Cannes in 1999, the film provoked a change in Belgian labor law, which now prohibits employers from paying teenage workers less than the minimum wage.