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


Tyler
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Thanks for the responses.  Yes, I didn't see this film as being preachy in the least, but I felt there was still a strong criticism of a system of employment (and implicitly, an economic system) that places money above common humanity in such a degrading, humiliating fashion.  While it's clearly not all this film is signifying, Deux Jours Une Nuit definitely meshes with the classic critique of capitalism that it endeavors to keep the rabble fighting amongst themselves (bonus versus keeping a depressed woman on the employment rolls?) rather than directing their action against the oppressive ruling class.

Interesting comment about their use of music; I'll keep that in mind when I watch Kid with a Bike today.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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7 hours ago, Joel Mayward said:

Where someone like Ken Loach is very deliberate and somewhat preachy in his critiques of capitalism within his films (and the Dardennes have produced some of Loach's recent films)...

Interesting. I did not know that. 
I remember vividly that part of my pleasure in the first viewing experience of Two Days, One Night was being half way through and being uncertain how it would end. (Indeed how it could end...) I just felt like if the vote went one way, the film would be falsely optimistic, but if it ended another way it would be bleakly pessimistic in a way that wasn't real. That feeling was amplified by the fact that I think the typical Dardennes ending for some of the earlier films -- encountering the face of the other -- comes about 40% of the way through the movie in which the soccer guy is transformed by Sandra's appeal. So I sensed I was in new(er) territory for the Dardennes...what comes *after* that face to face encounter? By contrast, in watching Sorry We Missed You (Loach's most recent film), I felt that scene by scene, beat by beat, the movie was laid out in the premise and I knew pretty much exactly how it was going to go and more or less how it was going to get there. 

Aside--one place Andrew and I differ slightly is in the singing in the car scene. It very much worked for me. I remember writing in my review that this film had something I had found largely absent from Dardennes earlier films: moments of joy. That too is different from the Loach film where there is just no respite from the pressures of the downward cycle. I think socio-political resistance is possible, but like so many things, if it is fueled by human energy or negative emotions (anger, hate, bitterness) it is possibly unsustainable. That's why the Loach film was somewhat dreary to me. It was all about how far he would push himself, never about whether those efforts would be effective (nope) nor examining why. By contrast, in Two Days, we understand how positive reactions sustain and feed (spiritually/emotionally) Sandra as well deplete her when they are negative. 

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I've screened this film maybe a 1/2 dozen times over the last 2-3 years (after the initial release) for academic reasons. I've been thinking more recently about territorial space and (to a lesser extent) lighting as means of commenting on the dominant elements of composition and, hence, the power relationships between characters. I noticed early on the prevalence of vertical lines dividing the screen and how they often marked separation between Sandra and the other characters. More recently, I've been playing with the idea that perhaps subtle shifts in territorial space or presentation reinforce Sandra's growing empowerment. (Within this overall hypothesis, the encounter with Timur is problematic in that it uses more shot-reverse shot technique even though they are looking each other in the face. This is such a powerful moment in the film and a pivotal one in Sandra's development. I think in some ways it is where the movie would have climaxed had the Dardennes made it 5-10 years earlier. But I'm less sure I understand the formal choices in it.)
 

 

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I like your hypothesis, Ken, and think it's worth considering further. When you just look at the still frames, some of those vertical lines are so obvious that they have to be intentional (especially the brick wall shots). The scene with Timur is definitely unique in its composition, as it's more of a close-up than a medium shot, primarily outside/exterior, and shot in a long take where the camera shifts back and forth rather than leaving both characters within the frame (an uncut shot/reverse shot). I've also wondered if nearly every shot of Sandra in motion when walking is primarily an upward climb of some sort, whether climbing stairwells or up a street or a literal hill (the one major exception I can think of is when she comes down the stairs after

 

 taking the pills). It's as if her entire journey is both an uphill struggle as well as a personal ascension.

 

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Concur about the uphill thing; my students often comment about that. 

The more I look at/think about the Sandra/Timur scene, the more I wonder if it is inversion. Sandra and Timur do have a (horizontal) barrier between them: the fence. But the shooting largely erases that barrier and emphasizes the psychological openness between them. In some of the other shots, there is not *physical* barrier between characters but a definite psychological one that is reinforced through positioning/territorial space.

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1 hour ago, kenmorefield said:

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Now I'm wondering about the shot composition for every interaction and whether or not the person chooses to vote for Sandra (so it's less about Sandra's psychology, more about the other character's). I'm looking at the horizontal line in this shot, and the openness between the two characters.

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Wow, that's fascinating, and it comes on the heels of a conversation yesterday with a former English major (now tea guru in Asheville) who pointed out the use of vertical lines dividing characters of different social strata in Parasite.  I'll try to be more mindful of this.  

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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On 2/19/2020 at 11:23 AM, Andrew said:

 

- Speaking of music, I understand why Manu wanted to turn off the radio when Petula Clark's "La nuit n'en finit plus" is playing.  Those are some seriously bleak lyrics!

 

 

I was reminded during a resent screening, that I always thought it was significant that the sing-along was to G-l-o-r-i-a which is the latin word for "glory," no? So the three are in some senses singing a doxology. 

Also, I noted the Solwal T-Shirts they are wearing in the morning vote have a sun emblem. Reminds me of Ecclesiastes where what the Prophet "knows" is true about God is contrasted with evil he has seen "under the sun."

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  • 2 weeks later...

*Love* those vertical lines. Wish that was the sort of thing I noticed on first viewing.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 4 weeks later...

My fingerprints are all over this thread already, but given that it looks like we are going to a 2/film per director limit in the 2020 Top 100, I guess I want to say a word specifically advocating for this film over the other Dardenne nominees (Unknown Girl, The Son, Kid With a Bike, and La promesse). 

I have strong affinity for each of those films, and I wouldn't be unhappy to see any of them in the Top 100.

The reason I prefer Two Days, One Night is that I think it is the culmination and logical conclusion of a particular Dardenne idea -- that Levinas/Murnau inspired meditation on face-to-face encounters with the "other" that Doug writes about so clearly and eloquently in Faith & Spirituality in Masters of World Cinema. Consequently, if we are going to limit the number of films by a director on the list, I think this film is representative, it can stand in for a a bloc of films. 

There are variations on a theme. And I get it if some people prefer some particular movement of a musical composition to another. The Kid With a Bike already is beginning to move away from the encounter as climax and think about what comes next. The Unknown Girl seems to deny Jenny that typical Dardennes face-to-face encounter and begin speculating about whether or not other things beside it can spark transformation. 

I guess for me, I'd be happy to see The Son and Two Days, One Night as representing the beginning and end of the Levinas/Murnau period, though I suspect we'll probably end up voting in The Son to represent the earlier films and Kid with a Bike as the more recent choice.

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Oh, I have all sorts of thoughts about how solely interpreting the Dardennes' films through a Levinasian lens is decidedly limiting (and ironically "un-Levinasian," as Levinas seemed to dislike visual art and cinema). But even if we take that interpretive approach, I'm also not sure Two Days, One Night is the culmination or conclusion to this Dardennian face-to-face encounter motif, as it also occurs (but is purposefully subverted) in The Unknown Girl, and happens in its own distinct way in the climax of Young Ahmed too. But even as I think The Son and The Kid with a Bike are the strongest of the Dardennes' films, I also nominated Two Days, One Night because I actually think it's a bit of an anomaly in the Dardennes' oeuvre, both formally and thematically. The use of a mainstream famous actress in Cotillard, the simple-to-follow narrative structure of Sandra's journey, the digital camerawork which is much more stable and less shaky, the warmer color palette, and the concluding non-abrupt "happy" ending are all much more accessible than any other Dardenne brothers film, which is why it's the film I typically recommend to people when they ask which of the Dardennes' films they should check out. So, in this sense, it may be helpful on our list as an entry point to challenging social realist Belgian cinema.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/9/2020 at 9:05 AM, Joel Mayward said:

But even as I think The Son and The Kid with a Bike are the strongest of the Dardennes' films, I also nominated Two Days, One Night because I actually think it's a bit of an anomaly in the Dardennes' oeuvre, both formally and thematically.

I agree with this, and The Kid with a Bike is easily my favorite of their films, and I'd be happy with this:

On 4/9/2020 at 7:14 AM, kenmorefield said:

I suspect we'll probably end up voting in The Son to represent the earlier films and Kid with a Bike as the more recent choice.

BUT I am coming around to agreeing with Ken that Two Days, One Night might be a better fit alongside The Son, which I think is their most essential film. I like Two Days, One Night's emphasis not just on an individual act of transformative grace (whether for giver or receiver, and we do get that in the husband) but also on the social solidarity and critique that is an undercurrent in their films that is most explicit here. The narrative structure is more conventional, but the "Sixteen Conversations about One Thing" approach is formally interesting and reveletory in its own way, as is discussed earlier in the thread. The shaky, over-the-shoulder reveletory realism that is so perfect in The Son isn't really on display here, but that's why we can include both!

 

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