A Film That Is Also a Handshake: The Cinema of the Dardenne Brothers
Screening Dates
  • September 8, 2020 6:15
  • September 10, 2020 8:30
  • September 13, 2020 8:30

A moral drama of lacerating impact and overwhelming passion … A small masterpiece.”

Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Europe’s quiet soldiers of urgent, humane cinema” (Dave Calhoun, Time Out), came to worldwide attention with their breakthrough third feature. A raw, realist drama set in the brothers’ industrial hometown of Seraing, La Promesse charts the moral awakening of 15-year-old Igor (future Dardenne fixture Jérémie Renier), whose father (Olivier Gourmet, also a staple) runs a dirty business exploiting illegal immigrants for cheap labour. When an African worker is fatally injured in a construction site accident, Igor makes the dying man a promise that sets the father and son on a collision course. The mission-statement film, an artistic coup de maître for the Belgian brothers, bears all the hallmarks of the Dardennes’ reborn cinema: handheld camerawork informed by boots-on-the-ground documentary, naturalistic performances, and a palpable sense of ethical purpose and real-world relevance.

Moving and utterly absorbing.”

Richard Brody, The New Yorker

La Promesse screens from Criterion’s 2012 Blu-ray edition, featuring a directors-approved high-definition transfer of the film.