EMINE – ‘Two Days, One Night’: Standing up on slippery ground

‘Two Days, One Night’: Standing up on slippery groundSuch a simple film that relays so much. The Dardenne brothers might have returned empty-handed from Cannes this year with their latest film andldquoTwo Days, One Nightandrdquo but it will surely leave its mark not just on cinematic history but also in the minds of the many people worldwide who endure the vicious clutches of capitalism in their workplace and must trade off solidarity for the sake of making ends meet.

With a stellar performance from French A-lister Marion Cotillard, who shakes off her star allure to adopt the modesty and frustration of a Belgian working-class mother, this socialist drama speaks to the collective political psyche as much as it does to the heart. Sandra (Cotillard) is in the middle of a crisis.

She works at a small-size solar panel factory but her bosses have decided that the business wouldnand#39t lose much if sheand#39s dismissed. The bosses impose a vote on her 16 co-workers, stating that if they vote Sandra out of the job, they will all receive 1,000 euro bonuses.

To her chagrin Sandra finds out that sheand#39s been voted out, but she just needs that job. She is already experiencing a mild depression that she can only deal with through medication.

Her loving husband tries to convince her to fight for her job. How can she? She is already extremely upset that the people sheand#39s been working with for years have chosen to get rid of her, and she canand#39t muster the strength.

With much hesitation she goes back to the factory and convinces the upper echelons of the hierarchy that if she manages to convince her 16 co-workers to take another vote, and if the vote is positive, sheand#39s back at work. She has only one weekend — hence the title of the film — to knock on everybodyand#39s door and persuade them about her re-employment.

Walking through the dreary streets of a typical European town (which particular Belgian city is not specified), Sandra — with a hunched back and watery eyes which already denote her internal despondence — finds and locates each and every one of her co-workers either in their houses or their places of leisure. The encounters could all be short films of their own, but what is so consistent in all of them is the own destitution of these workers.

Some of them already feel guilty for voting her out, especially those from African or Asian minorities, but they explain to her that they didnand#39t know what to do and didnand#39t have the courage to make a fulfilling moral choice. Sandra does not judge them she asks them to re-consider Others donand#39t care and in fact are frustrated that she is intruding on their free weekend time — they needed the bonus, they have debts, surely Sandra can find another job.

Some are incredibly angry at her boldness, some are indifferent and some have just accommodated the majority vote out of fear There is one very important consistency in all their reactions: All of them are experiencing financial difficulty and are as wretched as Sandra, so it seems a dead-end situation. But is it really?In the face of hardship and desperation, it is perhaps common to utter the words andldquooh but what can I do?andrdquo and in these times of economic stagnation when corporations and solely profit-oriented commercial practices have made the working force feel like they are indisputably dependent on business policies and are insignificant to the trade, there is only one way to defy and change the system — solidarity.

Its outcome: collectively adopted and enforced fair trade. The Dardennes are well aware of this, and through the very unlikely but familiar struggle of Sandra they embark on a story that illustrates this belief on a very simple level, with a very simple situation taking place between very simple people.

At the end of the day Sandra will never shed her humanity and integrity despite all the trials and tribulations she experiences and furthermore she will be an example and inspiration to us, along with her co-workers. She will get her job back she earned it, because she showed the courage to actually defy a decision that she was not a part of.

andldquoTwo Days, One Nightandrdquo is to some extent an extension of the Dardennesand#39 andldquoRosettaandrdquo (1999), another film about a working-class woman who does all in her power to continue in her menial job. But what is so truly inspiring and fresh about this latest film is its ability to realistically empower its very ordinary character into claiming her rights, and while doing that empowering the audience to do the same.

SOURCE: The East African