Rosetta: A film for the very patient

By Lawrence Tanner

Rosetta, winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival, is certainly different from the usual North American variety. Filmed mostly in real time, the dialogue (en français with English subtitles) takes a back seat to the actions and moments that cumulatively make up the film. Film making at its most basic, the camera work is entirely hand held with no music to contradict this illusion of a realistic perspective. These characteristics of the film. are not unusual for the directors (Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne) considering their background; they have produced over 60 documentaries and only five feature films.

The story revolves around a teenage girl, Rosetta, who comes from an underprivileged background; she lives in an out-of-town trailer park with her mother, an irresponsible alcoholic. Rosetta’s life is made more miserable when she is fired from her job for arriving late, having missed a bus. She is a bit of a wildchild, proud and stubborn, and she instinctively resists attempts by people to reject her. She desperately wants and needs a job, desiring to lead a normal life, but jobs are scarce and she remains a prisoner of her go-nowhere-life until employment liberates her.

She is befriended by the young Riquet who eventually helps her find a job. Apart from working at a waffle stand he acts as a veritable knight in shining armour on his motor scooter, wooing the fair Rosetta. Plus, he offers Rosetta his flat to stay in, while being no paradise, is still better than the trailer park.

A good boyfriend is just what Rosetta needs, though she is slow to trust him, having lead an isolated and dreary life. Anyway, Riquet’s boss hires her, but after only a few days the nepotistic bastard decides to give the job to his son instead. Rosetta is once again dejected, but in an act of shocking betrayal and desperate greed, she contrives to take Riquet’s job by getting him fired

The rest of the film. explores the psychological impact on Rosetta as she is constantly reproached by Riquet. Expect one of those ambiguous endings that French films are so well known for, but not before a few surprises. I left the theatre feeling grateful I did not live in a trailer park, though with a strange craving for waffles…