Rosetta joins the large collective of having a piece of media, a film, simply be named for the main character. Not to hold it against the film, but it is a simplistic decision, and that’s really what Rosetta essentially is; a series of simplistic decisions that, altogether, make for a very simple film. Now, as I’ve pointed out before, that can be a good thing or a bad thing; it can either make for a film with no power or effect that got by on the cheapest, easiest manner of production, or it can make a film brutally realistic and incredibly empathetic for just about any layman viewer. Rosetta kinda falls in between the two; it doesn’t have the characteristics of a bad or a good modern neorealist film, it just… is. Then again, looking at neorealism, that may be the intention.
Rosetta is a young French girl who, essentially against her will and out of necessity, lives with her alcoholic mother; the two share a very antagonistic relationship. Rosetta, despite being a self-professed good worker, cannot seem to hang on to a job, one that might provide a steady income and a bankroll big enough to move out of her mother and her trailer. She is also plagued by a mysterious and recurring set of stomach pains, which is never explained in the film. That’s the setting, and the Dardenne brothers, directing the film, simply set up the setting and let Rosetta live her life trying. So, what is there to talk about in this film? Well, there’s the lead actress, for one; Emilie Dequenne gives off a barely-repressed temperament of emotion as Rosetta, like a soda bottle with far too much pressure built up, but it never explodes or even bubbles over (except literally at the very end). She plays Rosetta as stubborn and obstinate, never failing in her combative/aloof attitude, and while it doesn’t make for an eye-catching performance right off the bat, it grows on you, little by little, until the last half hour where you’re completely absorbed in what she does. Aside from her, though, there’s really nothing else to be said about the film; it is that realistic, in that the film is highly polished until it comes off as featureless – to find features in such a work is like trying to describe a color. The one other thing that did jump out at me was the cinematography; the camerawork was one of the initial irritations I had to deal with, as it goes full handheld for a docu-drama look, and feels exactly like someone is just following this young girl around with a camera, and barely knows how to keep the camera running. It never lets up in this regard, either, so if you’re not a fan of shakycam, Rosetta will leave you with some considerable jet lag.
Strangely enough, I think I understand Fish Tank a little better from watching this one, at least its placement on the list. It’s there because there was no longer a spot for Rosetta. The two films share a largely similar viewpoint, as well as a totally identical strong-willed female protagonist; all that’s different is the culture each is presented in. That being said, I still can’t wrap my head around how this got on the list to begin with, let alone win the Palme d’Or at Cannes. It’s like staring at a completely white wall; it’s incredibly realistic, in a literal sense, but there’s just nothing to it. I have a feeling they just wanted the Dardenne brothers on the list (and they’d show up again in the latest edition with The Kid with a Bike); there’s just too little to take away from this experience to label it a must see. Now, at only an hour and a half, there’s little time to waste with this, and really, by the end, I never felt like I had wasted any time (though the abrupt cut-off ending was a little irksome). This is just a weird, weird bird – I really don’t know what to say. I didn’t end up in a worse position from when I started, so there’s that at least.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10