Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne gave a rousing speech at the Lumière Festival in Lyon on Friday before accepting the event’s lifetime achievement award. They were welcomed to the stage by Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Frémaux (who also runs the Lyon event) and actress Emilie Dequenne, the star of the pair’s 1999 film “Rosetta.” The filmmaking brothers, whose last film was the 2019 Cannes selection “Young Ahmed,” spoke candidly about coronavirus and inequality at a masterclass earlier as part of the festival. (Variety originally reported on the conversation.)
“Few things have changed in the 20 years since we made ‘Rosetta’ [the brothers’ first of two Cannes Palme d’Ors]. The coronavirus is not responsible for everything, and there are still so many inequalities in the world. They are right to fight,” Luc Dardenne said. Along with “Rosetta,” about a young woman struggling to hold down a job in a broken world, the brothers also earned Cannes’ top prize in 2005 with “L’enfant.”
“Being excluded from the world of work, of production, of consumption, of the human community, creates a feeling of humiliation, of worthlessness, of not existing. That’s what ‘Rosetta’ was about and it’s still true today — that solitude, it’s a question of human dignity,” Luc Dardenne said.
In stressing that the concerns of “Rosetta” remain relevant today, Luc also said, “There’s a responsibility that comes with being a filmmaker. Of course we like it when people like our film, but it’s even better they can become Rosetta, share her distress, become her. If a film can make someone who is locked up inside their own pre-conceived notions become someone else, and if this feeling stays with them, that’s what we want to achieve.”
Luc Dardenne also went on to explain how they formally achieved the societal intentions of the film which, like the majority of their body of work, employs a neorealist style to paint a picture of the working class in France. “In many of our films, there’s this notion of belonging. Rosetta has no place in society, she doesn’t know where she belongs. So when directing, we try and find a place for her. We put the camera in ‘the wrong place’” he said. “So that the character isn’t obvious to the viewer. If you feel you’re losing the character, you’re more interested.”