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Film / Rosetta

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Rosetta is a 1999 film from Belgium directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.

Rosetta is a girl in her late teens (actress Emilie Dequenne was 18) who lives with her mother. Their home life is not a happy one. They live in a sad, grim trailer park. Mom is a raging alcoholic who is so far gone that she trades sexual favors for booze and sometimes passes out outside. They are so poor that they appear to be on the edge of starvation, with Rosetta forced to supplement their diet with fish she poaches from the nearby river.

As the film opens Rosetta loses a temp job that she desperately needs at a factory. She scrounges around and gets a second job working at a bakery, but loses that after a couple of days when the baker's idiot son flunks out of school and needs employment. Before she loses that job, however, she meets Riquet, an affable young man who works at the baker's outdoor waffle stand. Riquet takes a liking to Rosetta and maybe, just maybe, represents a way out of her life of misery and squalor—but she makes a fateful decision.

Rosetta won the Palme d'Or at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival, the first of many Cannes successes for the Dardennes.


  • The Alcoholic: Rosetta's mother has blown right past the Lady Drunk stage and into a desperate, pathetic alcoholism. When Rosetta tries to literally drag her into rehab, Mom runs off. She is shown on multiple occasions exchanging sexual favors for drinks. At the end, seeing her mother passed out in front of their trailer is what drives Rosetta over the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: A film about how people slip through the cracks. All Rosetta wants is a job, but there's no one to help her, no one to give her a hand out of poverty.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Rosetta is a fighter, but coming home and finding her mother passed out on the steps of their trailer, after Riquet shamed her at the waffle stand, pushes her over the edge. She decides to kill herself and her mother in a Murder-Suicide.
  • Downer Beginning: Opens with an enraged Rosetta storming through a factory. She has just been let go from a job after a trial period, and Rosetta, who needs the job desperately, is freaking out.
  • Imagine Spot: Riquet slips into the river and appears to be drowning. Rosetta is shown running away, but it's an imagine spot, as the film cuts back to her at the riverbank. She grabs a long stick and fishes him out.
  • Jitter Cam: The camera almost always keeps a tight focus on Rosetta, either pointed at her face or pointed forward from a spot behind her right shoulder. There are many Jitter Cam sequences where the camera bounces as it follows Rosetta around, starting with the very first scene as she runs through the factory.
  • Kitchen Sink Drama: A poor young woman with a useless, drunken mother, struggling to escape poverty.
  • Maybe Ever After: Riquet is clearly interested in Rosetta: he invites her to his cramped apartment, asks her to dance, and lets her sleep over. This blows up when she rats him out to the baker because she wants his job. He's still enraged when he comes to the trailer park at the end, and he confronts her—but Rosetta, who was just about to kill herself, crumples to the ground sobbing. He helps her up. She looks at him as she continues to cry, and the movie ends.
  • Murder-Suicide: Averted, but only because Rosetta ran out of gas. She tries to kill herself and her mother, opening the gas on the stove and stuffing cracks in the windows, but the tank goes empty. She buys another tank from the creepy manager, and she is lugging it back to her trailer when Riquet shows up to confront her and the film ends.
  • No Name Given: Rosetta's mother is never named.
  • No Periods, Period: Decidedly averted, consistent with the Dardenne's firm commitment to realism. Rosetta suffers so badly from menstrual cramps that she points a hair dryer at her belly in an attempt to ease the pain. In another scene Riquet tries to dance with her, but she's cramping so badly she has to lie down.
  • Pride: Rosetta will take unemployment checks, but she stalks out of the unemployment office when she's refused unemployment insurance (she wasn't working long enough) and is offered welfare instead. When her mother gets hold of a piece of fish, Rosetta screams "We aren't beggars!", and throws it away.
  • Reality Has No Soundtrack: Like most of the Dardenne brothers' films, there is no soundtrack at all.
  • Trashy Trailer Home: The trailer park is a place of desperate poverty. Rosetta's mom prostitutes herself to the park manager for alcohol.