Symphonies For the Bedeviled
Rosetta ends with a pulsating life signal, just like Majid Majidi's recent New York Film Festival offering Color of Heaven. But unlike that Iranian film, the effect is not treacly. Everything the directing-writing team Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne do in this, their second dramatic feature, is brusque, clean, invigorating. Their rigorous style brings a sign of life to modern movie fiction. Throughout the 90s, such vivacity seemed possible only with the great Iranian directors?not Majidi (a mere sentimentalist who did the also-treacly Children of Heaven) but the great, dispassionate Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Abbas Kiarostami. Tough-minded artists are rare in film culture; but rather than give in to commercial blandishment, the Dardenne brothers essay the unglamorous subject of joblessness. Together with Makhmalbaf's newest film The Silence, they herald a bracing, nonsentimental view of destitution. Conscienceless moviegoers beware: both Rosetta and The Silence are profoundly political and moral observations.