Deux Jours, Une Nuit. Directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne -Belgium/Italy/France, 2014. 1hr 35mins. Drama. Cert. 15.
Cast. Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione, Pili Groyne. Simon Caudry, Catherine Salée, Baptiste Sornin, Olivier Gourmet.
French Blue Collar Cotillard
Here is the European Community giving everyone a nervous breakdown to meet the targets set by the technocrats and consumer narratives made plain by the ethics and (im)morality of the likes of Germany and GDP GB.
In order to bail out bond holders each of the contributing countries listed above, workers have faced austerity and a collapse in living standards which is so diverse and indiscriminate it makes vultures, hedgehogs, moles, wolves and peacocks plus out of the populus churning out the next thing needed.
This is apparently shot mostly in Belguim. Marion Cotillard as Sandra is in practically every scene. She is the everywoman whose shoes you have to walk a mile in and take the walk she does, catches buses, and goes all round this everytown – it is a mix of urban suburban environments with life and the everyday happening all around her. This invisible secret we encounter everyday. How is that person or this person coping and caring in their lives that you pass and know only by sight? What sorrows and what happiness is carried unbeknown to you? That is a powerful strategy of the film. For no outside contact to take place and the the story to walk through the seemingly ordinary but extraordinary counterpoints is surely part of the orbit of the vision.
She may stop a stranger to ask directions but then is is done in such a mannerly way as to fit those anonymous people right beside Sandra in terms of their own narratives and ongoing concerns and focus. A shared existence.
She has to reverse the ballot which went against her return over one weekend so setting in train a gamut of different levels of dignity.
She as we learn has been thwarted from going back to her old job in a vote that precedes were we arrive.
She must also retain her own recovery from depression which saw her absence over a stretched period from work.
This is a strong social narrative entirely believable and very well constructed and delivered through realistic dialogue (subtitled) and a superbly executed performance of vulnerability and stream of emotions by Marion Cotillard.
It is wrong to rave above acting when the point of the film is to expose the social matrix which is at play in contemporary France/Belguim.
Nevertheless she gives a bravado engrossing performance making a viewer immerse in her complex dilemma. If she returns how would she be treated having made those she works alongside forego their ‘bonus’ sweetener? One of many thoughts to arise.
Vision and Bite
The Dardenne brothers open the film as Sandra rests. She has taken an afternoon nap and it appears she relies on anti-depressants which slow her down and cut out the rawness of the life in front of her.
The hand held camera in the house she lives in with her husband Manu, Fabrizio Rongione, and preteen daughter and son reveals a nice home with an economic dilemma and desire not to succumb to the prospect of not returning to her job.
Manu also reveals in his support and driving her to some of the addresses the support Sandra has needed and he has given unquestioningly.
In the workplace labour relations and unionised personnel were jobs are clearly defined sits the small business at the heart of the story – Solwal – solar panel production, which like manufacturing throughout Europe is dependant on the structures in place throughout the union now weakened and which also protect the CAP of the farming communities which amounts to the bulk of EU expenditure to put cheap food on each’s plate.
Conditions of Labour
Sandra has overcome her latent depression and ventured to return to work only to find the work environment changed. That change is the factory can now operate as 15 not 16 meaning she is no longer able to be accommodated unless the additional ‘bonus’ to those covering for her absence and making those remaining, work with ‘recalibrated’ attitude and with fear of falling into a place like Sandra agree to forfeit the bonus.
Workplace representation in these countries still hold sway but is extremely localised, there is an arrogant foreman who tends to take the figures of production as a small token of the workers capability so pushes their work into strictly controlled roles with little latitude.
This is workplace stress of a kind the brothers Dardenne wish to point the arrow at and unleash the drama of the effect on people’s lives the routine work coupled to austerity in the scheme of things affects almost everything they do. So perverse, it is treating the product ‘Solar Panels’ as a life force which must not fail at the cost of diminishing lives meaning.
Faith in People
Sandra has a hunch circumstances conspired against her and she is encouraged by a colleague who agrees a fresh ballot is possible, so they seek out the factory manager Mr Dumont, Baptiste Sornin, to ask for a new vote. He takes the concerns of earlier possible influence outside accepted practices used by the foreman as plausible and he agrees.
The priori am of the film is the real form of humankind when placed in a position to, and it occasionally is made reference to, to love thy neighbour so in their hour of need can you deny any help you can give the,?
The boundaries are different for each individual on which we given clear evidence as this is the engagement of the film.
Obduracy and Insight
We also are given an insight to our obduracy and fickleness in degrees. What happens though is that through it all Sandra finds for us deeper meaning. She carries on whatever the outcome forgiving and loving without question every single one of her fellow workers. The intensity of the overwhelming love she, everywoman, has for ordinary people and their lives is striking and godlike. She hears them and takes away their sin. It is the cost her own resurrection and vital for her well being that she is willing to pay the price for giving that love.
Sandra chooses with total loving support of Manu, to put the supposition to her former workmates of either relinquishing their bonus to let her be able to return to her job or for them to hold onto it thereby voting against her return. Manu has held things together for her and the children and Sandra has that to adjust too as well as the reversal confronted.
How would you feel if something which has arrived in your hand, through it would appear, your good work, not through the disposal of a former employee and it is a mere reward not incentive? It incentivised each to feel valued and to not be liable for redundancy presumably so being much more productive.
This is a strong depiction of human dignity under pressure. It is replete with tales of conflict at each employee reached and constantly challenges your line of thinking will creating a precipice looming and the prospect of failure always coloring the encounters. Drama comes in spades with the purpose of living questioned in a modern fable. We are beyond conditioning ourselves or is that a lie we construct to protect ourselves from the ever near strike of fate.
The film comes with advanced modern invective of our present 21st century sense of European purpose. It reinvents the social model and is a mirror back on society and the limits of ethics, morality and origins of expectations.
A living harrowing question about our modern lives is luminous in the screen we look up to and we engage through the ever present spiraling roller coaster of emotions brilliantly expressed and it is the single most important element in delivering its complex twists, by the imaginative way Marion Cotillard takes on board this role.
The complete cast are in tow with this in a story of a team collective.
There are lessons to be learnt through this purposeful film and it will offer different outcomes in keeping with the expressed individuality which shines vividly. The Dardeene brothers have actually made our understanding by the gifted handling of a subject which in other hands could have bombed without producing context and meaning.
Do not let the brightness lure you into thinking a shining brilliant tale is to be laid before you. For all the light darkness provides a contrast.