La Promesse (1996)
Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have been making documentaries for over two decades. La Promesse is part of their successful move toward a more narrative style. This is the first film the brothers have directed that has garnished much attention from American audiences.
Father and 15-year old son, Roger (Olivier Gourmet) and Igor (Jeremie Renier), manage a corrupt business arranging housing and work for illegal immigrants in Belgium. Although any indications concerning Igor’s mother remain unspoken and unclarified, the profundity of that absence becomes the motivating force for the final denouement.
The film is inspired by dialogue from Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.
“How can you be guiltier than anyone in the eyes of all? There are
murderers and brigands. What crimes have you committed to blame yourself more than everyone else?”
“My dear mother, my deepest love, know that everyone is guilty in everyone's eyes. I do not know how to explain it to you, but I feel that is so, and it torments me.”
True to the spirit of existentialism, the films ends on an ambiguous note as a mother and son (though biologically unrelated to one another) walk away towards the unknown.
In the beginning as well as in the ending of the film, the sounds from the story bleed into the credits. It’s as if the film exists a little outside itself, and seems to be an affect of the directors’ existence themselves in the margins between non-fiction and fiction.
- Story A-
- Acting A-
- Visuals A-
- Originality/Innovation A-
- Enjoyability A-
- Overall A-
- DVD Extras NA