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Deux Jours, Une Nuit (Two Days, One Night) (2014)

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Just finished 900 words for CT; going back tomorrow for seconds. 

 

You know, I've been thinking a lot tonight that if this year has taught us anything it is that nobody's next film is guaranteed. Sure, in my head they all, like Manoel de Oliviera, work until they are 103, but you never know which Dardenne film, which Kubrick film, which Koreeda flm, which Sayles films, may be their or your last. So I try to practice the sacrament of the present moment.

Edited by kenmorefield

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Okay, filed my review here

 

I'm sure there will be a lot of push back from the elites and the taste makers, but I loved it and that's enough for me.

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Okay, filed my review here

 

I'm sure there will be a lot of push back from the elites and the taste makers, but I loved it and that's enough for me.

Now that's the sort of review that one finishes reading excited.

It sounds like a film that is worth driving a hour or two in order to go see, which I may just have to do.

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I'm sure there will be a lot of push back from the elites and the taste makers...

well I guess you don't mean me (as if I caught even a whiff of being a taste maker I'd be here a whole lot more).

I guess

it went wrong for me when an hour or two after attempting suicide* Sandra was out on the street pluckily talking her coworkers into voting for her. The implausibility of that seems to undo a lot of the realism of the film's formal choices.

So it's good, but not great, in my book, but I can't argue too much with someone who thinks it's the latter.

Matt

*Incidentally, your review ends mentioning the elements that might up the film's rating, but doesn't mention this which I think, in the UK at least, would notch it's rating up a bit.

Edited by MattPage

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Matt, I wasn't thinking of you specifically. (Sorry?) Was saying mainly that when one writes a review that enthusiastic, one leaves others no place to go but down. I get that. I've been around the Internet in general and here specifically long enough to know not to express a strong opinion about *anything* without expecting one or two sly insinuations that I am an idiot and one or two direct assertions of the same.

I did, of course, consider the scene you referenced. I don't care to discuss it more at this time. Among other reasons, I would consider it a pretty whopping spoiler--especially for a film still three months away from its U.S. release. I would recommend you put it in spoiler tags, but I am told that I am somewhat more sensitive to plot spoilers than others, so there's that.

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Ha, no I didn't think you were referring to me and I do know what you mean. When you love a film it can sometimes spoil it hearing others here, or

In comments to reviews or on Facebook pointing out its flaws.

And thanks for the heads up about the spoiler. I tried, but did it wrong. D'oh.

Matt

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Ha, no I didn't think you were referring to me and I do know what you mean. When you love a film it can sometimes spoil it hearing others here, or

In comments to reviews or on Facebook pointing out its flaws.

 

 

I suppose it might, particularly if one values the opinion of the commenter and thinks he/she has made a persuasive argument. 

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Indiewire:

Though known for their personal, intimate and raw dramas, which often feature lesser known or unknown talent, when we spoke to the Dardenne brothers last spring, they acknowledged that big Hollywood names had approached them to star in their films. "We can't say who in particular, because we may work with them, we don't know. It's up to them to say," Luc Dardenne stated. And whether or not Marion Cotillard came to them first or the other way around, this is nonetheless a massively exciting development.

The Oscar winning actress will lead "Deux Jours, Une Nuit" ("Two Days, One Night"), the new film by the Dardennes. Penned by the pair (natch), the story will center on Sandra who, with the help of her husband, has one week to convince her work colleagues to turn down their bonuses so she can keep her job

 

 

 

Everyone's excited by this news, but I'm a little worried. I think the Dardennes' aesthetic has worked well without "stars" who might bring too many viewer preconceptions to the stories. I guess I think of the Dardennes' style as being anything but star-driven, if that makes sense.

 

Well, it looks like the Hollywood name did not dictate the Dardennes' aesthetic. It was still intimate, personal and raw. The only thing it did hurt was that the film was constantly sold out at the Music Box, which is the only theater that runs foreign films during a reasonable release period. Also, Marion Cotillard is up for an Academy Award for this so I suppose that is a little different for the brothers as well.

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Watching this movie is a little like watching Nick of Time. It's not a "real-time" movie -- it's not the kind of movie that checks your watch for you -- but it *does* begin with a clear number of people that Cotillard needs to contact, and you can't help keeping track of how far she's gotten as the movie goes on. (And the characters are constantly reminding her, too.) So you've always got a fairly good sense of how much movie there is to go.

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I'm sure there will be a lot of push back from the elites and the taste makers...

well I guess you don't mean me (as if I caught even a whiff of being a taste maker I'd be here a whole lot more).

I guess

it went wrong for me when an hour or two after attempting suicide* Sandra was out on the street pluckily talking her coworkers into voting for her. The implausibility of that seems to undo a lot of the realism of the film's formal choices.

 

 Matt, that is where I had a problem was as well. It actually took me out of the story and film for a short bit.

Maybe I do not understand the French hospital policy or socialized medicine but there is no way a hospital in America would release her. They would, at least, hold her overnight for observation. I would have found this more believable if she threw up and went on with the campaign.

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I guess

it went wrong for me when an hour or two after attempting suicide* Sandra was out on the street pluckily talking her coworkers into voting for her. The implausibility of that seems to undo a lot of the realism of the film's formal choices.

I was okay with this because of the way her coworker's visit and the news of support causes her to regret her suicide attempt. I actually thought this sequence of events had an energizing effect that seemed entirely plausible psychologically.

 

Matt, that is where I had a problem was as well. It actually took me out of the story and film for a short bit.

Maybe I do not understand the French hospital policy or socialized medicine but there is no way a hospital in America would release her. They would, at least, hold her overnight for observation. I would have found this more believable if she threw up and went on with the campaign.

Even in the US, you always have the option of leaving a hospital AMA (against medical advice). Also, I wouldn't be surprised if Belgium, where concerns about lawsuits and insurance may not loom as large as in the US, were more flexible in this regard.

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I think the sucide gets a bad rap and is a sort of lazy criticism, but I freely confess I am in the camp that tends to give Dardennes the benefit of the doubt as writers.

 

I thought the scene was purposeful for a couple of reasons. I think it fleshes out, at least by insinuation,

why she was away from work in the first place and thus complicates our response to her co-workers and their concerns about how much they must be their sister's keeper. I also think it nudges the movie's conflict towards more of an internal one rather than an external one--will she overcome her despair? Rather than--will she win her job back? 

 

I don't know if I mentioned this here--it looks like I did not--but I asked the Dardennes at their Q&A to compare Sandra to Rosetta [since, in my mind both have suicide attempts and both face a central struggle around work}. One thing they said was that Rosetta was "a good little capitalist" who is willing to do anything and everything capitalism tells her she should do: fight for her job, fight for her piece of the pie, put her own self-interests above others or above personal loyalty. I apologize for stating what I think is the obvious, but Sandra's triumph is not a social/political/or economic one. She doesn't get her job back. It is a spiritual one. She turns down the offer of the job if it means displacing another worker. Thus the film is about a woman who had been isolated reconnecting with the world around her rather than withdrawing from it. The suicide attempt made much more sense to me 1/2 way through as she was still struggling to escape the mindset and worldview that the job/materialism is all there is. 

 

I have thankfully not known too many people who struggle with depression to the point of suicide (or suicidal gestures), but I have known people who struggle with depression. Not just of the manic kind, either. And the volatility of Sandra, the tenuous grip she has on her (for lack of a better phrase) psychological sobriety, struck me as both totally plausible and credibly rendered. 

 

As always, your mileage may vary.

Edited by kenmorefield

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FWIW, I also thought the suicide attempt and aftermath were compelling elements which didn't take me out of the intensity of the film, and both seemed entirely consistent with the established character.  I have some plausibility issues as to whether the whole bonus-or-job election could ever go down like that in a contemporary first world liberal democracy, though those doubts aren't big enough to make me any less gobsmacked by the wallops the bros deliver in this joint.

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 have some plausibility issues as to whether the whole bonus-or-job election could ever go down like that in a contemporary first world liberal democracy, 

Russ, lot of discussion of this in the post-Q&A. Dardennes said it was prompted by news of an actual case and that laws in Europe are such that this sort of thing is not uncommon. (The did say, but I forget the details, that laws that allowed it were tied to size of company/no of employees.) Again, that's the author(s) saying, in effect, "trust me, I did my research" but here again I tend to give Dardennes the benefit of the doubt until someone tells me otherwise.

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I was finally able to see this in San Francisco.  I'll comment on it more later when I have time, but this is one of the reasons that I am struggling to bring myself to create top of the year lists at the end of the year.  Two Days, One Night is the best 2014 film I've seen.  I have been reading recently about "the moral imagination" and the Dardenne brothers have it.  Given their reputation now, there is no way a film like this should have taken this long to be released to a wider audience.

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It's not so much the suicide *attempt* that rang false to me, as the bounce-back and sudden recovery.

On the other hand, whilst the bonus vs job vote would probably be illegal, it certainly seemed all too plausible to me that an employer, would operate outside of the law

Matt

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I agree with MattPage, FWIW.

And while I kind of like where the film ends up, I'm not sure how... realistic... it is, for lack of a better word.

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I took the point Matt raises as a point of emotional or psychological vérité in the film. Spoilers ahead, but here are a few reasons:

 

1. I read that sequence as: she commits the act, she is taken to the hospital, she is treated - but as there was little chance of immediate or long term harm, she checks herself out of the hospital. I just assumed this was consistent with Belgian law. 

2. It is also consistent with what we know of her story arc, in that she was absent from work due to hospitalization and/or care for depression - which had become significant enough to require medical intervention. When we meet her, she has already passed through this period of care and is now quite open about why she was absent from work for such a long period. This openness about her depression is a very good thing. It is a signal of successful treatment. She is willing to accept it as a treatable condition and has worked through any fear of stigma, for the most part.

3. It is very common for people to leave treatment - even a "successful" one, and still fall back into unhealthy patterns of depression and despair, that include suicidal ideation or related events. Especially under great duress. 

4. So while the suicide attempt is very surprising - it really shouldn't be. If we had more exposure to her period of treatment prior to the film, we may have actually been waiting for something like this to happen. (Which is also common for the friends and family of people that struggle with depression - a constant fear that a period of stability won't actually last).

5. She is taken to the hospital, but - this is nothing new to her. She has been here before. This is a sad failure, but she has been treated and given tools to cope (prior to the events of the film). She knows she can do this and there is a lot at stake. So she gets up, checks out, and gets back to the difficult task at hand.

 

So I found this all very consistent with her backstory. The film captures well the struggle of depression and despair as an ongoing and chronic condition, but one that can be battled with the kinds of honest attempts to get back into the pace and hum of life we see here. Her victory in the film is an existential one. She fought back, she was able to deal with this stress differently than she ever had before, and then when challenged - she remains a just, sacrificial, and hopeful human being.
 

Edited by M. Leary

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Well, the Dardennes were due for a dud.

 

While I would hardly fault this for being "contrived" or "schematic" (the plot progression is practically identical to 12 Angry Men, which I love), the lack of tension in the camerawork somehow made me more aware of those contrivances. Also, perhaps because I was weaned on Italian neorealism, the precariousness of the family's financial situation didn't register as powerfully for me. Then again, maybe not; the middle class things that they do, like ordering individual pizzas for the kids, can be seen as a desperate maneuver to carry on as usual, to protect the children from psychological distress. 

 

Cotillard's campaign for cinematic sainthood is pretty successful, though, and her exquisitely stressed out performance bonds the whole film together. Still, this didn't resonate with me as deeply as I hoped it would.

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It's not so much the suicide *attempt* that rang false to me, as the bounce-back and sudden recovery.

 

And I am saying I think the attempt itself, followed by unexpected good news, has an energizing, galvanizing effect. It's a truism that suicide attempts are often cries for help; in this case, the "cry" had the effect of "awakening" the attempter to her situation and impelling her to commit more resolutely to the necessary course of action. It is almost a kind of catharsis, a clearing of the enervating fog she's been lost in. The sequence makes perfect emotional sense to me.

 

And while I kind of like where the film ends up, I'm not sure how... realistic... it is, for lack of a better word.

You mean Sandra's climactic decision? Or something else?

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SDG wrote:

: You mean Sandra's climactic decision? Or something else?

 

I'm referring to the very, very last scene.

 

Just because the movie stops there, I don't believe the story ends there. To put this another way: many movies about the theatre end with a climactic performance that is greeted with lots of applause, but Mike Leigh, in

Topsy-Turvy, followed the opening night of The Mikado with a scene of Gilbert sitting, glum and/or depressed, on the edge of his bed and saying to his neglected wife, "There’s something inherently disappointing about success." Life goes on after small moments of triumph, and, given everything that we saw of Cotillard's character and her battles with depression, I'm not sure that I buy her declaration of happiness, much less that ending the movie there was the most "realistic" (for lack of a better word) way to end the story.

 

Don't get me wrong: I appreciate the spiritual/moral fable of it all, the way that the movie begins (with her worrying that she doesn't "exist" in the minds of her co-workers) and ends (with her knowing something different), etc. But the "realistic" filming techniques invite questions of "realism" elsewhere, too.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Some interesting points and I'm glad people enjoyed the film even more than I did.

That said, and at the risk of going all Doubting Thomas on you all, unless you guys know someone who has recovered this suddenly, or know of research that documents it, or mental health professionals that have dealt with it, I'm not going to be able to accept this response is common enough to fit with the realistic aesthetic.

It's no secret that I've spent practically all of the last ten years struggling with severe depression, with the worst period, including having over a month off work because of it, shortly before viewing the film (so in contrast to Mike wasn't surprised by the attempt at all, just disappointed it lacked the Dardennes usual subtlety). All I can say is that it didn't sit at all with my own experiences - which was obviously the dominant lens through which I viewed the film - or those I've known who have attempted suicide or self-harmed, or the kind of seriousness with which the authorities deal with it. That said, I can't rule out the fact that some people (perhaps those struggling with bipolar disorder) react differently, or that Belgium is so very different in it's treatment. But there are a few too many romanticised or naive ideas out in the world for my liking and it's possible that even the Dardennes are not immune.

As I've already lost sleep over this thread, I'm going to check out of it now, so apologies not to continue the discussion with you all.

Matt

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Noah Millman:

 

It’s interesting (if unsurprising, to me) that Tushnet focused as strongly as she did on the spiritual dimension of the film, reading it primarily as a story of overcoming depression. It certainly is that. But it’s also a fascinating study of the central principle of socialism, and how that principle operates – and fails to operate – in practice, in a country (Belgium) and an economic system where socialism is neither a dirty word nor a foundational ideology. That central principle is solidarity. . . .

 

The most compelling objection to socialism as an economic model, from Hayek on down, has been an information theory objection. It’s just not possible for a command and control model to process information remotely as efficiently as the price mechanism does. But this objection doesn’t pose the same problem for decentralized models of worker control, including the various varieties of distributism and syndicalism. Advocates of these models often assert that they will result in a more just social order not only because they will mean a fairer distribution of the returns to capital, but because worker-ownership as such will have positive social effects in terms of social cohesion – in terms of solidarity. I’ve made those kinds of arguments myself, in fact.

 

“Two Days, One Night” complicates that pleasant story – indeed, arguably refutes it. Workplace democracy, under conditions of scarcity and competition, doesn’t lead to solidarity and collective decision-making. Some workers put their personal relationships with Sandra above their economic self interest. Others do the opposite. The workers are divided, not united, and they are divided by the effects of need and sentiment, not by different views of the interests of the collective. (It doesn’t help that management, as we come to understand fairly quickly, is using collective decision-making as a passive-aggressive tool for manipulating the workers. But this is also a strike against the structure of the workplace more than it is against management – after all, what would you expect management to do?) . . .

 

See also Millman's follow-up post.

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I have no serious beef with Millman's position, but I think it is worth pointing out that in an artistic context (even without it, but especially within it), concepts such as "social cohesion," "fairer," "scarcity," and (especially) "self-interest" are all nebulous terms rendering most arguments essentially unfalsifiable as well as unverifiable. 

 

It's for this same reason that I find many debates about natural selection to be tedious and circular. How do we know if an adaptation was advantageous? Because it led to survival. If an adaptation doesn't lead to survival? Guess it wasn't advantageous, even though it looked to be at the time. (Or maybe it was but was trumped by another adaptation further down the road....)

To argue that Sandra (or anyone in the shop) obviously chose for or against her/their self-interest is to argue that one's self-interest is easily discernible, reducible to one or two easily measured elements--usually money--and exist in a vacuum. (Short term? Long term?) Heck, one might even argue that the development of a support network or social cohesion is more *valuable* than a short-term contract.

 

I am interested, though, in how the broader culture (and the immediate context) disseminates its values--influences our understanding of what our self-interest is and how it is logical to pursue it. I think the ideological monopoly that capitalism has is more oppressive and destructive than the legal/institutional grip it has on power. Millman pretty much dismisses any alternatives the business owner/manager might make as being inconsistent with the exclusive profit motive. But is that in their best interest? (Social cohesion=stability, less labor problems=longer term vs. short term profit.) The fact that these latter questions aren't even in play, aren't even considered, shows (to my mind) the poverty and lack of nuance of hard-core ideological capitalism.

Edited by kenmorefield

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