The opening of this film is iconic, and to a certain extent it’s what put the Dardenne brothers — already in their middle age and having had years of documentary and film experience behind them — on the map. Our title character just barges forward relentlessly, getting into a fight with her employer (who has just let her go at the end of a probation period), and in the first few minutes we don’t even see her face, just the arch of her shoulders, her propulsive forward movement, the determination that the back of her head implies, the anger at not having a job anymore. This defines the film and while it does slow down at moments, for meals, brief tender passages between people, for the most part it’s this forward momentum that carries it. Obviously it’s a style that the brothers were working on in their earlier film La Promesse but it comes to fruition here, in a film that delves into the lives of those living outside of established social safety nets, a hard-scrabble existence of living paycheque to paycheque, needing work to survive and doing anything they can to get it, a generation Rosetta exemplifies and had such a strong effect there was even a belief it led to a law protecting the minimum wage in Belgium (it didn’t, but it certainly must have galvanised opinion). It still holds up all these decades later, and the Dardenne brothers still have strong careers on the back of its impact, but it’s hard to get over the way this central character is introduced, the force with which that swing door is pushed as this film begins.
FILM REVIEW: Criterion Collection
Directors/Writers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne; Cinematographer Alain Marcoen; Starring Émilie Dequenne, Fabrizio Rongione, Olivier Gourmet, Anne Yernaux; Length 93 minutes.
Seen at the Paramount, Wellington, Friday 28 July 2000 (and most recently on Blu-ray at home, Melbourne, Friday 3 March 2023).