Rosetta (1999) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
93 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
jboothmillard19 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This French-Belgian film is one that used to feature in a version of the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, I was prepared to see it and hoping for a good one, directed by brothers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne (The Kid with a Bike). Basically twenty- seven-year-old Rosetta (Émilie Dequenne) has lost her probationary employment, and following a violent confrontation, she returns home to trailer park "The Grand Canyon", shared with her alcoholic Mother (Anne Yernaux). Unable to receive unemployment pay and desperate for work, Rosetta goes around asking about vacancies in various places, then she happens upon a waffle stand, after an enquiry she makes friends with worker Riquet (Fabrizio Rongione), she is experiencing period cramps. Rosetta is startled when Riquet makes an unexpected visit to the trailer park, he informs her there is a job available, as a worker was fired, she is also encouraged to tell her mother, who is promiscuous due to alcoholism, to seek a rehabilitation clinic, but the mother is in denial and runs away. Rosetta spends the night with Riquet, and tries to convince herself that her life has started to function normally, but after three days at work she is replaced by The Boss (Olivier Gourmet), this turns into another violent confrontation, but she calms down when he tells her he will call if an opportunity is available. Rosetta starts looking for employment again, and keeps Riquet company during work, she later saves him from drowning, but she also finds out he has been selling his own waffles elsewhere, Rosetta contemplates what to do, but tells the owner, she watches as Riquet is thrown out of the stand. Riquet is betrayed and hurt, he chases Rosetta on his moped, he eventually catches up to her and demands to know why she did what she did, she states she wanted a job, and had no intention of saving him from the water. Rosetta is rehired on the waffle stand, she encounters Riquet again, as a customer, returning home she finds her mother barely conscious and inebriated, she calls her boss to tell him she will not be working the next day. Later Rosetta is forced to get a new gas canister, Riquet shows up on his moped and circles her, she collapses to the ground and cries, Riquet helps her up, Rosetta turns around to gaze at him as she slowly regains her composure. Also starring Bernard Marbaix as The Campgrounds Manager, Frédéric Bodson as The Head of Personnel and Florian Delain as The Boss's Son. The debuting Dequenne gives a great performance as the troubled teenager desperate for a job for self-esteem as much as pay, it is a difficult and gruelling watch most of the time, with a soul-destroying routine for the leading character, but it is a good view of social realism, an affective drama. Worth watching!
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Le fabuleux destin de Rosetta.
dbdumonteil28 December 2001
Simply,"Rosetta" is the best fin de decade European movie.I have to search my memories to find something vaguely recalling Dardenne's work:maybe Robert Bresson's "Mouchette" or Kenneth Loach's darkest hour.

French cinema generally does not like those who have been left out of economic growth.Rosetta and the boy are on the wrong side of town.She lives in a seedy trailer with her alcoholic mother who's always ready to sleep with the first to come if he provides her with a bottle.She refuses charity,she claims dignity and dignity means work.To get a job ,Rosetta would do anything.Desperate,she tries to steal the boy's one:he sells waffles in a van.When he nearly gets drowned,she is tempted to abandon him to his fate!Later she becomes an informer and exposes his little swindles to his boss.

Dardenne does not judge.He knows we are able to understand that,in this world,conventional moral has got no sense.Besides ,Rosetta confesses to the bewildered boy she wishes he had sunk.The form is absolutely stunning and fits the content like a glove:close shots,at best medium,but no panoramics at all,a tight editing:the director does not want us to take pity on this place where human beings feed themselves with waffles , hard-boiled eggs,or French bread (luxury),where they carry heavy gas bottles without even a wheelbarrow,where they fish in the river to get something to eat without even a fishing rod.Actually we know nothing about Rosetta but her first name.She is the embodiment of poverty as Victor Hugo's Cosette was in "les misérables" during the nineteenth century(the two names almost sound the same).

"Rosetta" is the cries of the oppressed.A disturbing overwhelming movie.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Rosetta Stone
writers_reign23 November 2004
This is one that reels you in slowly. There's no wasted exposition. Like Clifford Odets 'Rocket To The Moon' we open right in the middle of a violent argument. The eponymous heroine is being fired and not taking it lying down. She feels she has a genuine beef but we never learn the real truth. What we DO learn is that Rosetta is, in all except name, a metaphor for the forgotten segment of large industrial societies. I can't speak for Belgium but in England there are thousands of teenagers of both sexes not only without work but not Interested in work so Rosetta, in her zealous, single-minded pursuit of even a menial job is almost too good to be true. The dramatic cards are stacked artfully against her, alcoholic mother, no father, not even a MENTION of a father, primitive home in a caravan park and, most unusual of all, not a SINGLE friend. The hand-held camera is content merely to follow her for long stretches of time punctuated by her enemies for in Rosetta's case every encounter is a battle. It remains an extraordinary chronicle with an extraordinary central performance.
4 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
It's good, I guess.
Boba_Fett113812 June 2012
Always hard to say something about these sort of movies, since they are being so simple in its setup and you can really hardly go wrong with these type of movies. And this one is good within its genre, though I can't say that it's being the most involving and interesting movie to watch.

You could say that this movie is being like a random slice of life and it's following a young woman around, who is struggling to keep a steady job. There of course is a whole lot of other drama going on as well, also involving a romantic plot.

In the end it also still is a movie that leaves more questions than answers. The movie isn't all about explaining everything to you and tells you what happens after certain events and perhaps more importantly; why. It's OK to feature such an approach, especially for a movie of this sort but in this case I would had preferred some more depth and explanations, to get me more involved with its story and characters.

That was also a big problem for me; I just couldn't ever like or understand the movie its main character. She obviously has some kind of issues and is socially very awkward. Not really a likable person, you want to hang around with, which also makes her not all that great and involving to follow around, in my opinion.

But still as these sort of movies go, I really can't call it a bad one. It never bores and it never drags at any point, though this is obviously a slower type of movie, in which not an awful lot is going on, all the time. It's perhaps not a very engaging movie but it still remains an interesting one, also mostly because it never really gets predictable.

Certainly watchable, especially when you are into these type of movies.

0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Tough call
zetes16 June 2000
I can say I definitely did not like _Rosetta_. And I'm not saying that I didn't enjoy it. What, are you kidding? This movie is impossible to enjoy. I mean that I did not find it successful.

It's the kind of movie that only exists to challenge its audience. I may not have been entirely up to that challenge. Watching a Dogma 95 film on four hours sleep and ten hours work was certainly not the best idea I've ever had. But I was certainly not the only one who felt that the final product was kind of a dud. I saw it in a theater with at least 90 other people, and there were a lot of moans and groans being uttered during the last ten minutes. And this wasn't just from a couple of people who may have accidentally wandered in an art theater by accident.

Here are my complaints: a film like this has to be saying something, and, in order to work, it has to make me think about the world around me, especially regarding our old friend, the Human Condition. _Rosetta_ only made me think about how exactly the film failed.

Basically the moral of the movie is: life sucks. It never questions why life sucks. Its conclusion, as far as I can tell, is that it just does. The major obstruction that arose in my mind during it were obvious similarities in theme, style, and character to The Dreamlife of Angles, which I regard as one of the best films of the 1990s. They are both about young women living in the lowlands (_Rosetta_ takes place in Belgium, _Dreamlife_ in Lille, France) who desperately need jobs to live, jobs which are extremely hard to come by. _Dreamlife_ has an edge over _Rosetta_, though. It shows us two different perspectives of this sort of life. One of the two main characters of that film cannot handle the life of poverty, whereas the other finds ways to deal with it. Their characters are well drawn, and we care about them. Heck, I think there are no other two characters from the 1990s (besides maybe Ben and Sera from Leaving Las Vegas) whom I know and love more.

Most of _Rosetta_ is just the camera operator following Rosetta as she stomps all over town. She has a personality, but it doesn't go to far. She lives to survive, if that even makes any sense. All of her personality traits arise from a very survival of the fittest attitude (and Rosetta knows that she is not the fittest). This is realistic, to be sure, but it is very hard to care for her. She is so closed off to the world that I could not care all that much about her. If you met her on the street and said hello, I would guess that she would punch you. But look at the bitter woman from _Dreamlife_. Her character generally resides in her bitterness, but she has extra depth. As people usually are when they are bitter, she is very vulnerable and is bitter to, at least partly, keep people from knowing her. Thus, I cared much for her, and I wept profusely for her all throughout the film. Rosetta did not make me feel a thing about her.

But here is what I like: While I may not have been the least bit compelled by the character Rosetta, the actress playing her was great. This seems paradoxical, but I'll try to explain it. The character as written by the screenwriter has little depth. But there is some depth, and all of it comes from the actress. Her constant stomping leaves her mainly with a sharp frown, but the scenes where she is actually doing something, that actress is amazing. Her face is very expressive, even though the directors seem not to have wanted her to use her facial repertoire during most of the film. There were a couple of scenes which elevated the film for brief periods. There are two very painful scenes where Rosetta tries to stay at her current job. And the very ending, while I was quite disappointed in what the plot was doing with the characters, shows us one of the saddest faces ever filmed.

I would never suggest that anyone watch this film, but in the future, if this actress gains any of the fame which she deserves, you may want to hunt this film down. You may dislike it, but it is worth seeing it just for her.

So I gave this movie a 7/10, which is a pretty big stretch.

ETA: My original review of this film, written in June of 2000, can be found on IMDb. I am frankly embrassed by it (written at age 21), but I'm not going to erase it. It is, indeed, a harsh movie, one that's very single minded and quite small in its scope. It is, though, an extraordinarily powerful film that I thoroughly loved this time around. Emilie Dequenne just floors me. I like a couple of Dardennes films more, but her performance may be the best thing they've ever captured. 9/10.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
This is, perhaps, one of the worst movies I ever enjoyed.
=G=21 July 2000
The film Rosetta is superficially the equivalent of a bad high school documentary class project. However, if you project your emotions with as much energy as those who projected Rosetta's face (you'll get to know every pore) on the silver screen, perhaps you'll enjoy this austere look at the determination of a young French woman. If there is anything extraordinary about this film, it is the accolades which it received.
3 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Crash Dive
tieman6431 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
One time Palme d'Or winner, now forgotten, the Dardenne brothers' "Rosetta" stars Emilie Dequenne as Rosetta, a teenage girl trying to escape an alcoholic mother, her decaying trailer park (ironically titled "Grand Canyon", an abyss which sucks in an entire underclass) and her apparently dead-end existence. The film recalls Robert Bresson's "Mouchette", but is shot with fierce, angry hand-held camera work, which mirrors Rosetta's own bottled up rage and desperation. One passage, in which the seventeen year old Rosetta is virtually exploited by a company for cheap labour, led to Belgium changing several laws, banning employers from paying teenage workers less than the minimum wage. It's a tiny, condescending, almost insignificant real-life gesture, but the kind of little gestures which keep today's Rosettas alive nevertheless.

The film isn't only about Rosetta's daily struggles for survival, but the blind eyed turned toward an entire stratum of society. Rosetta is a member of a socio-economic class which the world refuses to deal with, let alone acknowledge. Like a disease, she finds herself being pushed further and further out.

"Rosetta" is heavily influenced by Bresson's "Mouchette", another film which revolved around a marginalised girl who cares for a burdensome mother. And like Bresson, the Dardennes focus on their heroine's own private rituals: the taking off of muddy boots, the scrounging for and preparing of food, the tending to an alcoholic mother etc. And all the while, Rosetta's plotting: how do I escape this? What future will I be allowed?

At the end of "Mouchette", Bresson's heroine seemed to resort to suicide, rolling into a muddy pond. The pond features in "Rosetta" as well, though here it is both a source of life and death. Rosetta goes to it for fish, for food, for escape, while later, when a friend falls inside it, she initially refuses to save him. After-all, with him dead, she can inherit his business and perhaps make some money. It is in her best interest to ignore him, to discard his body and turn away as society does to her. But of course she doesn't. She fishes him out. Unlike the world, she views him, if only for a moment, as a kindred spirit rather than a competitor.

Still, suicide factors into "Rosetta" as well, for our hero does eventually regard it as her only mode of escape. Ironically, like Bresson's "The Devil Probably", she must pay for her own suicide. Even her death has been commodified. In this way, the film not only exposes the indifference of contemporary capitalism, in which economic disparities grow by the day, in which class has become a bigger distinction than nationality, language, religion etc, but highlights a certain impossibility of morality. Rosetta saves a life, but in doing so may have destroyed her own future.

8/10 – Not as aesthetically strong as similar modern movies in its field ("Wendy and Lucy", "Mouchette", "Land of Plenty" etc), or the Italian neo-realist, British kitchen-sink and French new-wave films which inspire it. Worth one viewing.
8 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
admirable but flawed film
Buddy-5121 August 2000
Those who were made queasy by the corybantic visual style of `The Blair Witch Project' had best have an air sickness bag handy for `Rosetta,' a film whose nonstop bobbing-and-weaving camera technique makes `Blair Witch' seem positively staid in comparison.

`Rosetta' won a best actress award at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival for the stunning performance of Emilie Dequenne in the leading role. It is safe to say that, not only is this fine actress present in virtually every frame of this 95-minute film, but the camera always seems to be shoved to within six inches of her face. This technique, which shatters the illusion of privacy we all like to feel we have in our lives, is obviously designed to make the audience become more fully a part of Rosetta's drearily dysfunctional world and life. And dreary it is as we follow her through her daily and seemingly insurmountable struggles to maintain employment, to cope with a slovenly alcoholic mother and to eke out some sort of respectable life without having to resort to either crime or welfare. Yet, the most admirable aspect of the film is the way in which it refuses to sentimentalize the character one iota to make her more palatable to the audience. Even though at one point we see her having a schizophrenic pep talk with herself as she is falling asleep – convincing herself that she will one day be able to lead a `normal life' – Rosetta is so emotionally cut off from the world and the people around her that we actually begin to question her mental health at times. Even at the moments of greatest potential tenderness – i.e. a scene in which a young man tries to teach her to dance -she never once cracks a smile. Life for her has become a joyless chore that she must somehow get through, even though continued existence only brings the promise of more days like it. We sense that Rosetta is not a `bad' person (she obviously both loves and hates her mother at the same time). She has simply been driven to acts of desperation by the exigencies of her bitter life. Indeed, the single most admirable aspect of the character from a dramatic standpoint is her least admirable from a humanistic one. She is so desperate for a job that she cruelly betrays, without a single qualm or moment's hesitation, the one person in the film who has ever reached out to her as either a helper or a friend. This is a gutsy tack on the part of the filmmakers, as is the open-ended, inconclusive ending. Wisely, the moviemakers know that, in a film whose very essence is raw-boned truth, a phony ending – either too upbeat or too melodramatic – would violate the spirit of the enterprise. The filmmakers – Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne wrote and directed it - also demonstrate the utter faith they have in their material by allowing the action of the film to unfold completely without the benefit of background music of any kind. Indeed, in another sign of cinematic bravery, much of the running time of the film is actually spent merely observing and recording `activity,' much of it the dreary day-to-day drudgery of Rosetta's chore-filled life.

For all its undeniable virtues, `Rosetta' might have had more impact had it been made 40 or 50 years ago. Back in that era, cinema-verite first emerged as a fresh and exciting antithesis to the bland slickness of commercial moviemaking – via filmic movements such as Italian Neorealism and the New Waves of nations like France and Czechoslovakia. Now, with that style having been done to death by filmmakers from all over the world, the hand-held camera acrobatics of films like `Rosetta' serve more as a distraction and distancing device than the approximation of reality that the filmmakers seem to want to capture. Do we really see the world in this jumbled, bouncy way or does this camera-conscious style, paradoxically, achieve the unintended effect of actually heightening the artificiality of the film experience? `Rosetta' could have retained its admirable tone of uncompromising objectivity and still emerged as a more potent, powerful and moving film by toning down the visual style somewhat. Rosetta's personality and life are interesting enough without all this visual flamboyance. We find ourselves wanting to step back and observe this intriguing world from a fuller, more comprehensive vantage point. Still, this hectic, claustrophobic style may be just what the artists need to crystallize the desperation of poor Rosetta's mental and emotional plight. `Rosetta' is, certainly, a fine, brave and intriguing film experience; it just might have had a bit more impact filmed in a different way.
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The greatest tragedy of poverty is when you can't even afford to be happy...
ElMaruecan8222 January 2018
As usual with the Dardenne brothers, there's no time for fancy film-making or cinematic conventions. "Rosetta" opens with the titular 'heroine' walking in her white uniform in some unidentified workplace while the camera follows her, chases her would be most appropriate term as it seems struggling to keep her on frame, while we can hear the loudness of her firm steps indicating that she's either angry or determined. She's both actually.

She's angry to learn that she won't be working anymore, her probationary delay had just ended, angry because she thinks she's been denounced for coming too late by a co-worker (whom she confronts) and determined to keep her job and not let anyone throwing her away. She locks herself in a room but it's only a matter of time before security agents get her out. This is the beginning of "Rosetta", Golden Palm winner of 1999, a unanimous vote, and from the way the first scene plays, we suspect that this ending is only a new beginning.

The Dardennes brothers style of filmmaking is integral to the power of "Rosetta", it can look like pretentious art-house take-the-camera-and-shoot cinema verité but the content is so genuinely powerful that you can't accuse the form. "Rosetta" always walks one step ahead of the camera, we often see her from behind going from one direction to another, this is a young girl struck by poverty and unemployment, living in a trailer park and witnessing the downfall of her mother, prostituting herself for booze. She seems to go in many directions because she can't afford standing still and a job isn't a matter of life and death, but of self-esteem, her mother surrendered, she wouldn't.

But then I make the film sound like delivering an uplifting message about courage and determination, and it would be too misleading. The Dardennes are too aware of the harsh reality of unemployment and poverty to make anything remotely happy emerge from it, perhaps the greatest tragedy of being poor is that it leads to a point where you can't afford even happiness. And Rosetta, played by Emilie Dequenne (she won the Cannes Prize for her performance) rarely smiles, she's suspicious, tacit except when it comes to ask for a job, she's got the will, the determination but Dardennes' movies aren't filmed like melodramas but documentaries, which doesn't diminish their power in terms of pure storytelling.

The film takes off when she finds a job in little Belgian waffle stand, her boss (Olivier Gourmet) warns her about the precariousness of the job, but she learns well and fast. There she meets Riquet (Fabrizio Ringone) who seems genuinely interested in her. Still, if I didn't expect a romance, I didn't expect what would result from their encounter... and what happened was the perfect illustration of the inner ugliness of despair, when you've got nothing to lose and you can drive yourself to any corner. "Rosetta" is a melodrama in the sense that she can't be in love with something, except with the idea of having a job, a steady job and a normal life.

Before sleeping, she recites herself that she finally found a job, this is interesting because we suspect she would never go as far as trading her body, or becoming a criminal. Even the perspective of working illegally doesn't rejoice her, what she wants is to feel normal, like everybody, to be happy, but can she? The extreme where she's driven is perhaps more disturbing than any of these scenarios because it consists of betraying. That's the power of poverty, it can make people act like heroes, victims and sometimes villains. The Dardennes who paint with the brush of truth the uncompromising portrayal of poor people, make us question our own perceptions..

This is not about sentimentalism, this is not about left-wing pathos, Rosetta is pathetic to some aspects, but there's no effort to make her sympathetic, she's just incapable to be happy or give a proper meaning to her life because she's been alienated already, it became symptomatic of her life. The film closes at the moment where we reached that realization and maybe it stops abruptly because it can either take a good or a bad path, but the point is made in this harrowing journey in Belgium, resurrecting the Italian neo-realism. There's something bad Rosetta does in the film but it's as bad what the protagonist does at the end of "Bicycle Thief", we condone it but we understand it.

And I guess the Dardennes don't make film to provide emotional moments but just keep us close enough so we can understand why some people look gloomy, unhappy, suspicious and why they deserve our understanding and ironically enough our distrust. It's sad and cruel, but that's how it is. And again, the directing is part of the film's greatness, it takes us to very uncomfortable and closeted places like the inside of a trailer, a small bathroom, a waffle stands, we all feel like intruders, put in a place that are no cinematically pleasing, but that's the point, the camera goes where Rosetta goes, to places cinema usually ignores. The Dardennes don't care for the 'look', even if the long take isn't perfect, this isn't Hollywood, within this imperfection, we can sense tension, reality, urgency, despair, struggle and we have a glimpse of these emotions through the documentary style. Conventional filmmaking couldn't have worked for such a story, it had to be as minimalist as if it was embracing the same problems than its character.

That's typical of the Dardennes, just like in "The Promise", as if the way they told the story was as inspiring as the story itself or made the same point. Like Italian neo-Realism or like Hitchcock movies, the form sometimes defines the content.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
superb acting is not enough for a great film
dromasca25 September 2004
Jean-Pierre Dardenne, one of the two brothers who authored 'Rosetta' was co-director a couple of years before this film of a strong documentary describing the life of the homeless orphan children in post-Communist Romania. That film which became a repeated item on some European TV channels like Arte-TV when they need to say something about Romania seems to have inspired the Dardenne brothers in making 'Rosetta'. The difference is that Rosetta is not a documentary, but a low-budget art film. The focus however is the same - the desperate life of a teenager who is forced to fight for her basic survival in a world and within a system which does not seem to offer her any help. She fights not only to survive but also to keep some dignity, although the lack of a proper childhood left her without tools to manage basic human relations, to understand and receive friendship.

There is a strong moral and social message in this film. Most of the time the camera focuses on the actress Emilie Dequenne who won a Cannes prize for her performance. The problem is that the lack of action and events in the film, although keeping it simple and direct, cannot sustain the movie as a piece of art. It takes more than a strong message and good acting for a great film . What works well in a documentary is not good enough for a full length feature film. 'Rosetta' lacks complexity and the direct approach eventually gives the perception of simplicity, decreasing the overall impact. 6 out of 10 on my personal scale.
5 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Les Miserables, XXth (vhs)
leplatypus20 August 2015
Having watched all my DVDs, now i watch and review my VHS tapes collection, mostly movies and shows that I taped between 1991 and 2001. My first tape features this movie which was a recommendation from a Greek friend if my memory is correct. Watching it is like taking a punch in full face as this world is bleak, gloomy, desperate. Rosetta is young adult, with attitude problems, stomach illness, dysfunctional parent, living in a camping and jobless. For one time, cinema is something else than glamor or entertainment and opens the medium to often forgotten people. A seemingly hand-held camera keeps sticking to Rosetta so the movie is natural, dynamic and unpredictable. It says much about modern poverty and how much our societies have become individualistic and forgets the genuine compassion. In a way, it should be a must see for our coddled abusive and ignorant politicians when they denounce jobless people as lazy, swindler because it would show them what's poverty really means !
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
no escape
mjneu5931 December 2010
The heroine of this admirable but depressing French import is a sullen and troubled (both for good reason) teenager living in trailer trash penury with her alcoholic mother, and stubbornly pursuing what she calls "a normal life": defined as a paying job and someone to call a friend. Dramatic slices of life don't often come more lifelike than this, and thankfully so. It's about as far from Hollywood glitz and glamour as a film can get without becoming a documentary, taking as its subject part of an underclass typically ignored both on and off screen.

The transparency of the script suggests a largely improvised scenario (there isn't much in the way of dialogue at any rate), and the performances are as natural as breathing. But the lack of any cosmetic crutches (music cues, sympathetic characters, a tidy resolution) can make watching it an oppressive experience, and all the restless, hand-held cinema veritè camera-work is enough to give the viewer a headache. The film won a handful of awards at Cannes, no doubt because it offers such an obvious stylistic rejection of the ongoing West Coast colonization of Europe, but there isn't anything here for audiences looking for entertainment.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
You are entering The Real Zone
rooprect10 August 2021
Have you seen the 1948 Italian classic "Bicycle Thieves"? Yeah think that, pumped up on crack. This is "Italian neorealism" but set in Belgium a half century later.

The character "Rosetta" is a 16-year-old girl who lives in a camper with her nearly catatonic, alcoholic mother and is, as the filmmakers say, "a thin aluminum wall away from living on the streets". The fact that Rosetta is barely an adolescent who is thrust into the role of provider and responsible adult is a clever twist that further turns this social statement upside down. It becomes not just a tale of survival but terrifyingly a coming-of-age flick. Rosetta is socially and emotionally stunted, unfinished and handicapped. It's fascinating to see Rosetta (excellently played by Émilie Dequenne who won Best Actress at Cannes) attempting to grasp concepts of morality and ethics even though she has clearly had no guidance. There is a certain wild animal quality to her which you will immediately feel, and though she is tough and headstrong, she is still just a teenager who doesn't know how to dance, doesn't know what a "friend" is, and whose only reality consists of obsessively trying to find a legitimate job because she feels that's the coveted symbol of having a normal life.

In that respect, this film provides something we can all apply to our lives whether we're 16-year-old homeless kids or rising corporate execs. It's the idea that an obsessive pursuit of some type of social status, or social achievement, or even a relationship, is what we cling to as proof that we have a "normal life".

In a memorable scene our protagonist Rosetta talks herself to sleep by whispering, "Your name is Rosetta. My name is Rosetta. You found a job. I found a job. You've got a friend. I've got a friend. You have a normal life. I have a normal life. You won't fall into the abyss. I won't fall into the abyss. Good night. Good night."

The camera remains very tight, almost claustrophobically so, on Rosetta throughout the entire film which exaggerates the microscopic world she lives in. She repeats routines and engages in trivial labors which are shown to us in almost tedious repetition, but the effect is powerful in conveying a sense of quiet, lonely desperation.

Throughout the history of cinema, there have been many films that document "how the other half lives" but most of them approach the subject as if we are spectators, almost in a patronizing or voyeuristic way that leaves us thinking after the credits roll "phew I'm glad that's not me" but here in "Rosetta" we get a sense that the bizarre life of this 16 year old outcast might very well be the story of the human race.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Rosetta has a lot going for her.
Spleen2 April 2002
She's energetic and intelligent. Her mother is an alcoholic, and the mere force of suggestion would be enough to drive almost any other seventeen-year-old in her position to alcoholism, too - but we can sense that this will never happen to her, because she knows it would be a mistake. (In her case the knowledge is enough.) Circumstances may end up crushing Rosetta, but she will always, in some sense, be able to cope with them. Coping is what she's good at.

But just because I like Rosetta doesn't mean that I want to stare over her shoulder without break for ninety minutes. Couldn't they think of anything else to do with the camera? Luckily, they used FILM, albeit 16mm, rather than digital tape, so we can at least appreciate some of the colours (I remember there being a lot of reds and greens) and the pleasing grain ... I mean, it's hardly a visual masterpiece, but we need to do SOMETHING to keep ourselves occupied.

I won't comment on the story. It's hard to follow and doesn't really matter. The shaky, inches-from-the-earlobes camerawork should have been tossed out of court at Cannes. "Come back when you've shot this material properly," they should have said, "THEN we'll look at it."
1 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
sharky_554 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Rosetta, like many of the Dardenne brother's films, opens in medias res, with a young girl confronting an employer about being fired. We are immediately aware of the before and after of these events, and can conclude that this is a regular occurrence for Rosetta, being exploited as cheap labour for a limited period of time, and having to make a loud disgrace of herself when told the unfortunate news. It's impact is so visceral that the film in fact has proved to be the catalyst for reform for youth workers in Belgium.

Near home, we see her repeat the same actions over and over; crossing a four laned road, checking the fish traps, refilling her bottle, putting on and taking off her boots and exchanging them for her 'nice' shoes, go all over town in search of a job. These are not exciting in any sense, but you see how it weighs her down, having to return to these tasks over and over to ensure her survival. The Dardennes reused this technique in Two Days One Night, and repeatedly forced Sandra to walk up long pathways, inquire with numerous strangers, and knock and ask the same questions again and again, and build up a sense of dread that came with each refusal. As Rosetta trudges through this day to day cycle, and asks the same questions, we begin to realise that it is not only a matter of financial security, but also her own pride being wounded by every rejection.

We see her utter dedication to leave this life even as she is so familiar and efficient in all its facets. Her mother is the opposing force to this; clearly in denial mental issues and whoring herself out for a drink or two. Rosetta hates her, and her mindset that seems so at peace with their destiny of living their lives out in a trailer park, but reacts with the same anger when her mother is clearly being taken advantage of: "My mother's not a whore!" Her last vestiges of pride (throwing food away and refusing to beg or resort to charity) and her tough exterior are eviscerated in one startling scene of vulnerability and emotional distress - while trying to wrestle with her mother and convince her to apply for rehab, she is accidentally pushed into the river. Her mother's immediate reaction is so damning and harsh: she flees like she flees the reality that Rosetta forces her to try and confront. And Rosetta herself, her gruff, defensive voice put on to shield her from any perception of weakness, becomes shrill and desperate as it calls for mommy, to no avail.

She meets Riquet, a young waffle worker whom may be the first and only friend in her life. When he rides up to the trailer park, she is supremely embarrassed, but he does not show any signs of ill will or prejudice. He is in fact kind to her, and it is so unexpected for Rosetta that as she lays in his bed at night, she has to repeat to herself or risk falling asleep and never waking up to a 'better life'. She is numb and cold to his open and kind reception; when has this ever lead to something good in her life? And then, as he falls into the water as she once did, she hesitates because it might just open up a spot for her to take. This act is less convincing than revealing his side waffle business to the boss; because we do not see this sort of malice from her at all previously (the fighting at the beginning is more born of desperation), and it feels uncharacteristically cold, even for someone who is looking out for herself. But this lends power to Riquet's final action, because of this hint of hesitation - the Dardennes reverse it and for once in her life she finds a little spot of solace, of compassion, that is so genuinely honest and good, even as Rosetta has done all of those things to him.

It is shot in the same way as all of the Dardenne's work, but perhaps because of the subject matter, it is an even more harrowing vision of the neo-realism aesthetic. Long takes and body language are used to depict the heightened senses of Rosetta and how they have been tuned as a result of this lifestyle and to ensure survival; as she picks up on stray dialogue in the background about money being left in a till, as her body stoops in resignation of having to help her drunk mother up again, and in a subtle moment, as she nervously glances off-screen briefly at Riquet, whom has come to the store to survey her in his old position. Sometimes, the physical shaking of the camera does get a bit excessive, and is relied upon rather than the actual desperation of the body and facial expressions. And like always, there is no music to speak of, no sentimental chorus or signalling of moment of change. Just a repeated mantra that is whispered to no one but herself, because if it is not reaffirmed, she may lose hope altogether.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Realism is An Understatement...,
tim-764-29185615 July 2012
To say that Emilie Dequenne. the young actress playing Rosetta - and who won the Golden Palm at Cannes for her efforts here, is 'plucky', would sound patronising, to say the least.

This is structured documentary film-making at its most urgent - and poignant. The premise for most could hardly be less appealing - an independent film, filmed at a moderately sized Belgian industrial town, with an actress who wears no make-up (yes, the odd pimple, too) has an alcoholic mother who gets more booze by offering herself for sex and they both 'inhabit' a tiny, leaky caravan on a caravan park.

By plucky, I mean that Rosetta is almost always running - from someone, after someone - including her own mother - to a job, from a job. When not doing that, she gets thrown in a lake (by same person as above), catching fish in said very muddy lake, using a broken glass jar. She is always trying to either get work, keep her job or survive, somehow.

This all sounds quite frantic - and it is, when the hand-held camera follows her, is glued to her, almost, as she goes past so close, she briefly goes out of focus. But often, it is meditative, thought- provoking and downright very ordinary. Which, oddly, is extremely compelling, never more so during the gaps in dialogue.

Underneath this hardened facade - she only swears and fights when really pressed, then she's like a terrier dog - we hope to see a normal young lady, who can do things that she enjoys. We only see this once, when the young man at the new waffle-van where she finally gets a casual job, takes her after the first day, back to his, for food and playing of some music.

If this is SO mundanely glum, why am I watching it for the second time? Well, my Halliwells Film Guide (bible, to me) rated it highly and I got a copy cheap as a Korean import and secondly, you just know that there is a message here. Not necessarily a very important one, but one that we need to reminded of, when we all (and our Governments) continually moan about the youth of today and how they never want to work - and about caring for those unable to care for themselves.

It's also very sobering (definitely no pun intended) and one with an ending that you'll remember.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Furious movie...
rainking_es11 July 2006
One of the most celebrated titles of the 90's European cinema. A movie that's tough and furious, just like the main character, Rossetta, a girl who can't get a job, without a father, and whose mother prostitutes in exchange for a couple of drinks. Rossetta's life is so ruined that she would do anything to find a job, she would even betray her only friend.

Everything in "Rosetta" is so frenzied, so wild, and transmits you the anxiety of this young girl, her confusion... Social realism in the Ken Loach way. Those who only wanna see happy endings and digital effects will hate a movie such like this... For the rest of you, enjoy it.

*My rate: 8/10
0 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A movie of contrasts
LeRoyMarko6 October 2002
This is a good movie, but who failed to respond to my expectations. The camera work is unique (in the Dogme style), but it's a little too much. Some scenes almost make us dizzy. The acting is very good and Émilie Dequenne is excellent as Rosetta, the 17 years old Belgium girl who can't find her way in life. But the movie drags on, even though it's just over 90 minutes in length. Somehow you're care for Rosetta and somehow the movie ends and you don't think of her anymore. The movie does have an important social message: How it's difficult to break the cycle, to get out of the learned way. But in all, a very average movie.

Out of 100, I give Rosetta 75. That's good for **½ out of ****.

Seen at home, in Toronto, on September 22nd, 2002.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Low-key drama about hope and survival
ThreeSadTigers9 April 2008
Brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne concern themselves with creating films that put realism on the screen without using artifice or cinematic trickery to distract the audience from the socially aware message at the core of their narratives. Unlike the similarly themed dogme movement, or the more iconic works of Lars von Trier etc, the Dardenne brothers are unconcerned with changing the face of cinematic reality, but rather, take their cue from people like Ken Loach, Bruno Dumont and Robert Bresson; by creating honest, often-bleak works of film that take their character from despair, to hope, and sometimes, right back to despair, in order to give the audience a taste of a world away from the more comfortable social milieu we might be accustomed to. The concept could be read as hypocritical admittedly, and although the occasional heavy-handed quality of the brother's work does intermittently become preachy, there is ample opportunity to deliver some moments of earth-shattering drama.

I first encountered the Dardenne's work back in 2001, when British film channel Film Four premiered their film The Promise (1996) in preparation for the premier of their highly acclaimed follow up film Rosetta (1999). Both films are here are heavily indebted to the naturalistic/realist work of Bresson and Loach, particularly films like Diary of a Country Priest (1951), Riff Raff (1990) and Raining Stones (1993); with the filmmakers presenting the viewer with a series of characters continually forced to the brink of despair, but desperate to pull themselves back.

Rosetta was their follow up to The Promise and is the film that garnered the most attention when first shown at the Cannes film festival back in 1999. The film continues the thematic and visual preoccupations familiar from The Promise, though for me is less successful in its overall intent. The film follows the brilliant Emilie Dequenne as a troubled young teenager desperately searching the Belgium ghettos for work, whilst also having to put up with an alcoholic mother, a lecherous landlord and a series of ignorant civil servants. The use of hand-held cameras and jarring jump-cuts is much greater this time around with the brothers seemingly intent on alienating the viewer, but also, expressionistically conveying the lead protagonist's sense of cultural dislocation and alienation from the world around her. It also creates an extraordinary sense of intimacy between the audience and the character and showing the full range of Dequenne nuanced and entirely naturalistic central performance.

As with The Promise, the brothers pepper their film with an abundance of topical, moralistic issues such as the passage into adulthood, immigration and domestic abuse, but at the centre of the drama there is still room for hope. Rosetta might not be a ground-breaking film or even the better film of the two that I have seen - its ideas are well worn and its scenarios familiar from the classic kitchen-sink cinema of films like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) and A Taste of Honey (1961) to name only two - but the process of refinement that the brothers are able to create with the subtle shading of characters and the no-nonsense approach to film-making is really quite affecting on the most personal and emotional of levels.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
It's a hard life -- crude and bitter medicine: harsh poverty unabashedly delivered and desperation complete
ruby_fff2 January 2000
This is beyond the intensity of Gary Oldman's "Nil By Mouth", and Tim Roth's "The War Zone", while Erick Zonca's "Dreamlife of Angels" seems heavenly compared to the conditions presented in "Rosetta" by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne.

A down right harsh film. Unsparingly direct depiction of a young girl's poverty struggle. She is as tough as she can be. She fights vigorously to hang on to a job. She cares for her mother, a helpless alcoholic, and a seamstress when not drunk. Rosetta (Emilie Dequenne) is unrelentingly stubborn about receiving kindness, or food unsolicited. She has her dignity. A young person with so much burden on her shoulder and a heavy heart.

Things may be seemingly repetitive: again and again we see her crossing that traffic roadway, jumping into the bush trail; we hear the rustling leaves, the thumping of her footsteps; we watch her stopping by the hideout where she kept her rubber boots, changing her only good pair of working shoes; we follow her as she crawls through the wire fence loophole, arriving at the campers -- feels like a mindless routine. Yet, she's intensely single-minded on getting "a real job" (vs. moonlighting) and to have "a normal life", not to "fell into a rut". At one point, we can almost be happy for her to have "found a friend" in Riquet (Fabrizio Rongione), a waffle street van vendor. She actually was able to peacefully sleep that night. Only to wake up and report at work to be told she's again out of a job. A devastating blow. Out of desperation, she did something that most of us viewers may not be able to comprehend -- but what do we know of her travails, who are we to judge her action?

It was not easy for her to have done what she did -- she did hesitate and took the risk. She risked her newfound friendship -- she desperately needed "to have a job". In a way, she has lack tenderness, love and warmth for so long that she's numb to human kindness -- she needs to be thawed! One has to be patient with her, to give her time and see through her tough surface and rekindle her heart. Trust needs to be rebuilt for her to continue living and tackle difficulties afresh!

This is no Hollywood fare. Dialogs are few. No exploitative, explosive, abusive scenes. We're given the bare structure of the story, and Rosetta, plus the sparing few supporting characters, held the movie steadily intact.
14 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
She works hard for the money (and you better treat her right)
nunculus28 November 1999
Rosetta (Emilie Dequenne) lives in a trailer park with her mom, an alcoholic who has sex with the landlord to keep the water turned on. Rosetta has to play mother to her own mother; at the same time, she struggles to hold onto one minimum-wage job after another in her depressed Belgian town. These jobs are her only underpinnings--the only thread of stability in her life--and when they're pinched out from beneath her, what's meant to be tragedy ensues.

Cannes Jury President David Cronenberg passed up David Lynch's masterly STRAIGHT STORY, and a few other credible movies, to hand the Palme d'Or to this profoundly unconvincing movie by the brothers Dardenne; the glib Annette Insdorf finally hit it right on the nose when she said, "Cronenberg's Palmes are scarier than his movies." Like Kimberly Peirce's BOYS DON'T CRY, ROSETTA is a movie about white-trash family life that seems authored by a well-meaning tourist. For all the Blair Witchy camerawork and verite style of the Dardennes, there's not one movement of the story here that persuades--from Rosetta's treatment of her mother, to the most melodramatic use of a pool of quicksand since BLAZING SADDLES.

Only Dequenne's unadorned acting has the force of authority. (I'll grant these guys one very cool, on-the-nose detail: Rosetta soothing her upset stomach by blowing a hair dryer on her belly.) The rest of the movie feels like a weird overlap of the Social Worker Muckrake Movie (see what terrible things poverty can drive a girl to do?) and the Fake Bresson Movie. The Dardennes copy one classic Bresson device--the following of a physical act of work through all its processes. Only in their hands, you have no clue what it is the characters are meant to be doing. Napoleon is said to have claimed that all great generals should know how to boil a chicken; the Dardennes should have learned how real people catch a fish.
0 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Waffles Before Friends
WhimsicalVonia20 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Rosetta (1999)

Another Dardenne Brothers film. An unexpected Cannes winter. Dogma 95 style filming. I can respect this as an art, but not much else. Shaky camera practically perched on the eponymous girl's shoulder as she furiously, roughly storms through her day. Introductive scene shows her throwing a fit for being released after a probationary period at her work. Dismissive and rude to her mother. Although an alcoholic prostitute, does she really deserve this from her daughter? Understandably friendless. Riquet, willing to see through her callous exterior and befriends her, works for a waffle food truck. (Belgian, of course.) Rosetta conveniently chooses this for her next occupation. He tries to put a smile on her face, visits her in the Grand Canyon, her trailer park. He makes a mistake, trying to rescue her from the river, because when he falls in, she waits an excruciating long time before finally choosing- reluctantly- to pull him to shore. Unbelievable. When the boy makes the second mistake of revealing some shady reselling practices, Rosetta moves in. She takes his place as the waffle maker. Extreme close ups, point of view, angles, shakiness. We see Rosetta's anguish. We also see how that causes Rosetta to do things that are downright selfish, with no regard to the feelings of others. Anyone in her way? Watch out.

Waffles before friends Amplified desperation Too Art House for me

(Haibun (俳文 ) is a prosimetric (written partly in prose and partly in verse) poem in which a single haiku is included after the prose, serving as a climax or epiphany.)

#Haibun #PoemReview
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Unemployment: The war she is fighting
ilpohirvonen14 April 2010
Unemployment is one of the biggest social issues we are dealing with today and the work we do is usually seen as a thing everyone should do, if you don't you're not part of the society. Trying to get work and trying to belong have been subjects the Dardenne brothers have been dealing with their films. Rosetta (1999) is about a girl who gets excluded from the society and is trying desperately to get back in.

Usually the films by the Dardenne brothers build around the moral choices their characters have to make. So do they put us in charge to judge them? Are the choices they do right or wrong, I think they do want to challenge us in that. And the fact why we are able to judge them is because we get so close to them. The distance between us, the audience and the characters is close. It has been achieved through their original narrative but also through the extraordinary cinematography. Each sudden change will shock the audience.

The camera is at some points tied to the character. It follows the characters and their lives very closely. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne always, according to what I've read, film their movies chronologically. They start with the first scene and then move on. By that they achieve to create a very realistic storyline. Because the actor/actress doesn't know what's ahead of him/her. So the films by the brothers are like pieces of life.

Rosetta (Émilie Dequenne) is a young girl living with her alcoholic mother in a caravan at an industrial area in Belgium. Rosetta gets fired and tries desperately to get a new job. Unemployment is the war she's fighting, she needs to get a job to be normal - to be like everybody else and she is ready to do almost anything in order to get a job. The moral choices she has to make during her search of work are given to us for observation and thinking. Because in the end is there only one last choice: to kill or not to. That is the basic question the film brings up. How important is it to be a part of the society? For Rosetta it means everything, she's hanging on and if she let's go she vanishes. She doesn't exist without work.

So in the center of Rosetta there is a human being, who gets thrown out of the society and it's not good if you want to do something, but you're not able to do it. Rosetta wants to work, but can't that is a huge problem in the modern world we live in. The main themes of Rosetta are private despair, the concept of work and how it is vanishing.

The realism by the Dardennes is achieved through their documentary-stylish narrative, fast-paced editing, cinematography, marginal dialog and by amateur actors. The actress Émilie Dequenne won the Golden Palm for her debut role as Rosetta and many other actors/actresses have won awards for their first roles when working with the Dardenne brothers.

This a brand new radical style the Dardenne brothers have created. They are changing the basic elements of cinema, they are changing the narrative as they are the cinematography. I don't mean that they have just let all the things they've learned from movies, their films still have some of the traditional elements. There's always the suspense that builds around the moral choices and there's always the mystery - what is happening inside the character's head? They are philosophically modernizing cinema and Rosetta (1999) with Le fils (2002) is the finest example of it. Neither of them has got musical score at all, which puts us in charge of observing and paying more attention to the sounds around us.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Walking, running and changing shoes?
PCC092113 October 2020
A strange character, who is about 19 years old, but looks about 14. She also has a drunk of a mother. Rosetta winds up being the sole provider of the household. The film-makers do show us throughout the film that she is the more mature of the two and that there is desperation to find work. This tediousness shapes a very basic film, with a slow pace and don't even get me started about the bottle she keeps throwing into the pond. I tried to enjoy the interesting hand-held camera work, which gave it a voyeur feeling. The film looked like it was much older than 1999, which gave it a docu-drama feel, that I liked. There were some unique close-ups, which I found compelling, but these positive aspects couldn't save this pointless wreck. I felt exhausted after watching this.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Rosetta Reviewer Retches Repeatedly
Shiva-1111 March 2000
Rosetta lives in abject poverty with her alcoholic mother in a trailer park in Belgium. Rosetta's only desire is to get a job so she can escape her circumstances and lead a normal life. However, her desperate attempts to stay employed ultimately work against her - whenever she loses a job (as she always does because of the temporary nature of her employ), rather than accept it, she goes berserk demanding not to be let go, erasing any possibility of being rehired.

It is rare to find a movie that is intentionally repetitious, and devoid of entertainment value or plot, yet several critics have lauded the film for these very reasons. They speak of it being true to its Italian neorealist roots, its unashamed leftist leanings and unflinching views of reality, and argue that the judges at Cannes were right to award it the Palme D'Or. I disagree.

I think it has received accolades because it was the last movie they previewed and everyone was so dizzy from the bouncing camerawork (similar to that in the Blair Witch which earned it the Variety headline "Blair Witch Viewers Pitch") that they didn't know what they were voting for. I'm only being somewhat facetious - many people (including I) suffered motion sickness and several audience members actually left because of it. However, that alone is not enough reason to miss this film. Rosetta is a hypocritical opportunist- she condemns her mother for selling herself for sex- yet she is willing to betray anyone, or do anything (even contemplating murder) to get a job. She is neither a heroine nor an anti-heroine - her defiant work ethic does not make her a good person and she is not evil enough to loathe. I felt absolutely nothing for Rosetta and did not care what happened to her. And if I had to watch her change her shoes one more time…

Unless you are a masochist or enjoy feeling queasy, miss this film.
2 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed