This is the breakthrough feature from Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, who would go on to become a force in world filmmaking. The brothers brought the unerring eye for detail and the compassion for those on society’s lowest rungs developed in their earlier documentary work to this absorbing drama about a teenager (Jérémie Renier) gradually coming to understand the implications of his father’s making a living off of illegal alien workers. Filmed in the Dardennes’ industrial hometown of Seraing, Belgium, La promesse is a brilliantly economical and observant tale of a boy’s troubled moral awakening. –The Criterion Collection
After studying drama in the arts institute, Jean Pierre Dardenne and his brother Luc made some videos about the rough life in blue-collar small towns in the Wallonie. After their meeting with filmmaker Armad Gatti and cinematographer Ned Burgess, they decided to enter in the movie business.
In 1978 they shot their first documentary, Le chant du rossignol, about the resistance against the Nazis during the second world war in Belgium. In 1986 they shot their first fiction movie, Falsch, about a Jewish family massacred by the Nazis. After their second movie, Je pense a vous, they released La Promesse, a movie about inmigration in Belgium. The film was a success worldwide winning awards in many festivals.
In 1999 they had another hit with Rosetta, that won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Festival. The movie tells the story of a blue collar worker with an alcoholic mother who tries to have a better life in a small belgium city.
In 2002, they came back to Cannes with their… read more
Characterizing themselves as “one person with four eyes,” Belgian filmmaker Luc Dardenne and his older brother Jean-Pierre rose to the forefront of international art cinema in the 1990s with such uncompromising, socially aware dramas as La Promesse (1996) and Rosetta (1999), depicting life in Belgium’s depressed industrial region near Liège on the Meuse River.
Born in Awirs, Dardenne grew up in a middle-class family in the working-class steel town Seraing. With schools closed during strikes, Dardenne was exposed to the upheavals of the 1960s labor movement during his formative years. While still in school, Dardenne frequently visited his older sibling in Brussels, where Jean-Pierre was studying acting under playwright Armand Gatti. Gatti, who often used nonprofessional actors, invited Luc to join his acting troupe. Though he got his degree in philosophy in the early ’70s, Luc was inspired by his time with Gatti to explore the creative and political possibilities of film and video… read more
It wasn't really their debut. They had many documentaries earlier. And before this they had what they considered to be their disastrous Je pense à vous. That film taught them everything they were doing wrong and La Promesse was was basically their second and possibly final chance to do it well.
An absolutely wonderful and completely absorbing humanistic film. The cinematography was absolutely gorgeous with a camera that moved almost majestically. The characters themselves were so incredibly human it was astounding, and the actors portraying them were flawless. I have to say for my first Dardenne picture, I am pretty fucking blown away. I cannot wait to watch more.