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Ron Reed

Rosetta

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Just watched this potent little film. Uncompromising is certainly a word that comes to mind.

I do confess to being utterly puzzled, though, as to why this film's supporters deemed this the number one spiritually significant film of all time (in our 2005 list)? I don't mean for this to be a thread about the list: only to note that there must be a significant number of A&F members who see the distinctly spiritual nature of this film that I don't see.

Not here to argue, only to be illuminated.

And certainly if no one wants to argue that the film is distintly spiritual, I'd certainly be interested just to celebrate the movie's accomplishments. The lead actress is certainly wonderful: extremely committed physicalization, etc. Some things that show up again in THE SON, for sure: the camera work in the opening scene and sometimes following, the focus on employment, a bit of on-the-job training from Olivier Gourmet, similar sense of threat/danger/unpredictability. At a certain point I started thinking of the film as AU HASARD ROSETTE, and the buzz of mopeds certainly enhanced that.

Think I'll watch LA PROMESSE tomorrow.

Ron


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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I second Ron's motion. I'd never heard of Rosetta before the 2005 Top 100 nominations; there'd been no previous discussion of it here--evidently, since this seems to be the first thread about it--and since it's only available on VHS, it's difficult for me to obtain (though not impossible), so I have not seen it. The IMDB information for the film isn't particularly enlightening, though one user comment does mention the use of "Dogme 93 principles."

I'm convinced that it's a good movie and worth seeking out, but again, echoing Ron's question, what makes it spiritually significant?


There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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Yes, Beth, definitely worth seeking out. And as much as the "spiritual significance" is anything but explicit, it's going to take me more mulling (and hopefully conversation) to come to terms with the spiritual elements of the film. The morning after, I'm definitely seeing how much this film grows on reflection. It's a potent experience while you're watching it, but a lot of its significance seems to unfold as it comes back to mind subsequently. Whether that significance is "spiritual" depends a lot, of course, on what that means to the person wielding the adjective. I didn't notice any gestures toward God, religion, or even any sort of more general transcendent hope. Didn't really in THE SON, either, but that film is so focused on themes of violence / vengeance / forgiveness / etc, and those themes are so central to Jesus' gospel, it's not hard for me to see them as particularly spiritual. I'm still coming to terms with what ROSETTA is "about," but depending how you think about those themes, maybe it's equally "spiritual."

Remember how abrupt the ending of THE SON was? Enough so that the estimable J Robert Parks found it unsatisfying? ROSETTA even more so: it seems to be something of a "Lady or Tiger" ending, though I was pretty certain in the moment, and continue to think upon reflection, that I know which is implied. I'd be interested to know what others think about that - with proper spoiler protection, of course.

And I'm very curious what people make of Rosetta's stomach pains. Another resonance with THE SON, though I didn't catch the direct plot tie-in that's evident in THE SON.

How about Ebert's comment on another plot point:

She is escaping from the world of her alcoholic mother, a tramp who lives in a ramshackle trailer and runs away near the beginning of the story, leaving her daughter to fend for herself.

It seems to me he misunderstood that sequence: I thought

Rosetta was taking her mother to some sort of alcohol treatment program (or at least AA meeting), and her mother fought against going. Subsequently it was Rosetta who stayed away from their home, wasn't it? Until after she reports Riquet's waffle scam to her boss, gets the job, then returns to the trailer and finds her mom passed out outside. Which is the catalyst for her finally to surrender her new job, to care for (or re-engage with co-dependency with) her mom.

Or did I read that wrong, or remember it wrong?


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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I'll happily laud its spiritual merits at length a bit later when I've got a good chunk of time, but I think it's fair to guess that ROSETTA's #1 ranking came in part as a result of the way the voting process was set up. That it is less well-known than other films, but uniformly held in high esteem by those who have seen it probably gave it the highest per-voter average, e.g. 10 people who saw/loved ROSETTA vs. 20 people who saw ORDET, 15 of whom said "definitely" and 5 of whom said something less would probably put ROSETTA above it if my understanding is correct.


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I'll happily laud its spiritual merits at length a bit later when I've got a good chunk of time, but I think it's fair to guess that ROSETTA's #1 ranking came in part as a result of the way the voting process was set up.  That it is less well-known than other films, but uniformly held in high esteem by those who have seen it probably gave it the highest per-voter average, e.g. 10 people who saw/loved ROSETTA vs. 20 people who saw ORDET, 15 of whom said "definitely" and 5 of whom said something less would probably put ROSETTA above it if my understanding is correct.

Yes, I think you're right: that methodology definitely shaped this year's list.

Hoping you'll end up with a good chunk of time before too many moons have passed!

Ron


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Saw LA PROMESSE this afternoon. Oh my gosh, these guys are it.

Posted some comments on that film over on the LA PROMESSE thread, and there are lots of connections with ROSETTA I won't repeat here. There are so many comparisons among these boys' films, I'm fantasizing a book on their work: what a luxury it would be to dig into all of them, in detail! And when I think how few of my film friends have seen their work. Brings out the evangelist in me.

Mother and daughter and fathers and sons. The learning and losing of vocation. Betrayal and loyalty, love and hatred. Amazingly real performances, rooted in fully realized physicalities. Poverty, survival, desperation, the thin line between resourcefulness and sin. Abrupt endings.


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Ron, your post SINGS! Thanks for that.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Here's what I came up with, rough draft...

ROSETTA (1999, Belgium, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)

Your name is Rosetta. My name is Rosetta.

You found a job. I found a job.

You found a friend. I found a friend.

You have a normal life. I have a normal life.

You won't fall into the rut. I won't fall into the rut.

Good night. Good night.

Rosetta is fierce


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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I'm fantasizing a book on their work...

What do you think I've been working on the past few months?

One of the most significant aspects of the power of Rosetta is that it directly inspired "The Rosetta Plan," a labor law in Belgium initiated by Laurette Onkelinx designed to "prevent young people from becoming stuck in unemployment by offering them the opportunity of a first job or of rounding off their school education with an additional vocational qualification." It went into effect in 2000.

Edited by Doug C

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I'm fantasizing a book on their work...

What do you think I've been working on the past few months?

No way!! How totally great. You're definitely the man for it, with the Bresson background and everything else.

So, have you seen either of their first two fiction features, FALSCH or THINKING OF YOU? Or any of the documentaries?

Continuing to unearth nuggets from Luc's journal?

One of the most significant aspects of the power of Rosetta is that it directly inspired "The Rosetta Plan," a labor law in Belgium initiated by Laurette Onkelinx designed to "prevent young people from becoming stuck in unemployment by offering them the opportunity of a first job or of rounding off their school education with an additional vocational qualification."  It went into effect in 2000.

Hopefully it doesn't include a "trial period," at the end of which propective employees can be let go due to lateness...

I was hoping you'd take a look at my Dardenne entries, actually, Doug. Any things that don't ring true to a Darennophile like yourself?


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Great comments Ron--one bone to pick: It's not a quirk, it's there by design.

I guess what I'm suggesting is that probably nobody who voted for this wonderful film would actually consider it the number one most spiritually significant film of all time. But definitely one strength of the list is the way it introduced some very cool lesser-known flicks into the mix! Which is certainly part of the design of the list.

And the plural possessive of Dardenne is Dardennes' (IIRC).

Thanks!


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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So, have you seen either of their first two fiction features, FALSCH or THINKING OF YOU? Or any of the documentaries?
No, but at TIFF they gave me their address and phone number, so I'm hoping to track those films down. They said only one of the films is subtitled in English, and they are rare enough that they are currently receiving their Paris debut (think about it) this week: http://www.cinergie.be/cinergie/infos/breves/0909evecenwalbxl.htm' target='_blank'>Int

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A few thoughts...

Having seen two of the three most recent Dardenne efforts (2002


All great art is pared down to the essential.
--Henri Langlois

 

Movies are not barium enemas, you're not supposed to get them over with as quickly as possible.

--James Gray

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... The only thing that gave me pause was the line, "While Luc Dardenne's Catholic spirituality and engagement with the Bible are apparent throughout his journal..."  While Luc did study philosophy at the l'Universit

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Great thoughts, John. Love the stuff about ritual: I hadn't thought that out, but you're right, those moments to provide something in her life and in the film, some sort of structure or predictability, even in the middle of such strain and chaos.

Yet, at her lowest point, there is hope. And in those final few frames, we are treated to a wonderful picture of love and hope. And we have a moment to realize what is happening before the camera cuts away and the credits roll. An abrupt but deeply moving finale

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Sorry for the long spoiler tag - it really is all about the last few minutes of the film. Two thoughts on my read of the ending:

First, Riquet strikes me as more bark than bite. He cares about her, which has been evidenced throughout the film. His whole character has been about making himself vulnerable to her, offering to dance with her, giving her the boots even after she runs out on him, continuing to befriend her even after she accosts him on his motorbike. He has gone out of his way to help her. Of course, there is the day he is betrayed, which he has every right to feel angry about. He confronts her then, but he also gets his question (Why did you do it?) answered. She says: "For the job." There seems little reason to go back at that point. If he had wanted to do something, he would have done it then. But his reaction there was the same as it had been when she had run out of his apartment earlier - a quiet hurt. I know that costing him his job was the greatest wrong she did him, but every other time she wrongs him, he comes back.

Which, parenthetically, gets me to thinking about the ending. I think the Dardennes have done something quite interesting there. They have created the possibility of love, but it also involves the opportunity for each party to be harmed. Riquet can offer himself to her, which again places him in the position of vulnerability OR Riquet can give in to anger and place her in the position of being harmed. They reveal, in this scene, the fine line between love and hate. What's that saying - we hurt the most those we love the most. There is this strange overlap between these two polarities.

Second, and I might be wrong about details here, but what's informing me here is something related to a point you made about the sound of the motorbike (BTW, loved the connection to Balthazar). It is deafening (at least in my memory) in this final scene. That is the sound she is afraid of at other times in the film - I am thinking of the moment when she is out beyond the lake and she runs for fear of the approaching motorbike being the manager. Yet the sound stops as he comes over to her. To me, that registers as a release of tension - I still didn't know what would happen, but I don't think I was afraid for her once that sound stopped.

I'm not trying to suggest there is no ambiguity in that final image, just that there are some little things to see it hopefully. Of course, the largest factor is probably my own perspective on things - I want him to offer his hand to help her up. And that was how I took it almost immediately. I wish I still had the film, so I could go back and watch those final few moments again, being more attentive to the details of faces and movements.

What about you? You expressed a desire to see it hopefully. Does the film leave you in total ambiguity? Anyone else care to share an opinion?


All great art is pared down to the essential.
--Henri Langlois

 

Movies are not barium enemas, you're not supposed to get them over with as quickly as possible.

--James Gray

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Excellent stuff, John. I'm going to keep track of all this, and see how the ending strikes me another time through. I would say that my feeling about it was that it was predominantly threatening/bad, but that I could also see the possibility of the alternative. And your mirror image of that response makes me wonder if the film is more ambiguous there than my initial reaction.

Reminds me of a long discussion, both here and in email, about THE SON. Moving into the final scenes, I felt a tremendous threat of violence, where Russell Lucas came into it with a much different set of expectations. It strikes me that most North American films are much more intent on leading an audience through a specific series of expectations and experiences and feelings, where films like the Dardenne brothers make may be quite intentional about not shaping those things. Perhaps they craft a climax like THE SON, or an ending like ROSETTA, quite specifically to avoid definite expectations or definitive readings or interpretations. (I'm not entirely convinced that is so, but it may be. Perhaps they are just more subtle, and more easily misread.)

Edited by Ron

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Great thoughts, John. Love the stuff about ritual: I hadn't thought that out, but you're right, those moments to provide something in her life and in the film, some sort of structure or predictability, even in the middle of such strain and chaos.

Just to add a bit to this point on ritual, and to expand the connection you made to Bresson and Balthazar earlier, there is this quote from Gary Indiana's essay on Pickpocket: "Bresson shows that most of our lives are consumed by meaningless routines." I haven't seen enough Bresson to be able to speak authoritatively on this by any stretch, and I'm not sure I even like the word meaningless there, but reading the quote made me think of A Man Escaped, and the simple routine he goes through every day: working on his escape plan, going into the yard to dump his waste, cleaning up in the bathroom. It is all routine. FWIW.


All great art is pared down to the essential.
--Henri Langlois

 

Movies are not barium enemas, you're not supposed to get them over with as quickly as possible.

--James Gray

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John, Ron, and Doug,

Thank you so much for the above posts about Rosetta. It was wonderful to come here and read what you wrote.

I by chance saw it last night on TV! It is so beautifully typical of the D brothers : back of heads, handheld cameras, and no music score. (I recognized the "father" as the boss instantly.)

I was struck by the last scene - showing Rosetta in bed. I wondered what she was really thinking/realizing. Maybe it was all too much - her betrayal of the boy, her hard life, her hope. Her face was a realization of something deep within her. What was it?

Also, please, one of you comment on why you think this is our Number One most spiritual movie.

It stirred something deep within me. Not sure what. Have to see it again or let this settle.

But that last scene of her face was a statement or a question. Which?

Sara

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I'm really glad you saw this, Sara, and that it resonated with you. The questions you're asking are exactly the kind of questions the Dardennes hope their viewers will ask, so I'd say you're off to a great start! I'll wait a bit before throwing in my interpretation.

Ron and John, I do find the ending quite hopeful.

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I was struck by the last scene - showing Rosetta in bed. ...

I thought the last scene showed her wrestling a propane tank along the ground, with the motorcycle buzzing around.


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Ron and John, I do find the ending quite hopeful.

What makes it hopeful for you? What John said, above?


I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Ron and John, I do find the ending quite hopeful.

What makes it hopeful for you? What John said, above?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this too, Doug.


All great art is pared down to the essential.
--Henri Langlois

 

Movies are not barium enemas, you're not supposed to get them over with as quickly as possible.

--James Gray

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I was struck by the last scene - showing Rosetta in bed. ...

I thought the last scene showed her wrestling a propane tank along the ground, with the motorcycle buzzing around.

Ron, I think the last shot of her showed her lying down - maybe on the ground, maybe on the bed. I don't really remember. But there was a close up of her face - her feelings - her thoughts. It was powerful. Then the scene went black. And left me wondering.

Sara

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FWIW, I remember the film ending with the motorcycle going in circles when I saw it in the theatre way back when, too.

Sara, was this shot in the version you saw at all, with the extra shot of her lying down added afterwards? Or did the version you saw end before it got to the motorcycle?


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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