Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Two days, One night (2013)

My inability to construct a decent written flow these days (but, I will still try). Out of impatience to say it all without taking too long. Hinders the potentially elegant style of a journalistic text and promotes the fragmented, goal-oriented style of business plans. Bullet points, short descriptions, absence of rhetoric devices. Words are just the means of conveying meaning these days. Beauty in the words is a luxury. And luxury costs money.

Just like cinema costs money. Just like an act of kindness costs money, at least in Two days, One night (2014)  the last film by the Dardenne Brothers, Luc and Jean-Pierre. Belgian film makers who brought home the Palm d'Or twice already, once with Rosetta (1999), then with L'enfant (2005), only to mention a few of their prestigious awards. Cinema makers who try to follow a vision of cinema verite with their documentary-style, hand-held camera and opting for natural surroundings instead of studio set. They privilege, so to say a vision of "lean creation" -just like lean start-ups, very much in tune with the scanty means of their protagonists. Their cinema, of course, costs money too, but not as much -European cinema doesn't cost much after all, in comparison to their American counterparts.

The Dardennes, film after film, consistently manage to do what other European directors fail in, which is to make a more-than-decent film in every sense: story, characterisation, acting, aesthetics-wise. What's more, they have such a strong artistic vision, that they manage to do so in spite of the fact that their films are co-productions, and usually european co-production are a disaster. There is a reason behind the co-productions artistic shortcomings, as I found out recently while browsing virtual pages. According to a report by Club de 13 (2008), the multitude of economic sources is to blame. Apparently all co-producers want to pull the strings already early on; the  screenplay undergoes last minute changes, which lead to" half-hearted directing efforts, to too much control from actors and, finally, to bad films" (in Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne by Joseph Mai, pg.64). 

But, this post didn't start as a praise to the Dardennes, quite the opposite. I was left saddened to see how their impact on me had worn off, and how their current film left me disinterested. In my fast logical evaluation, I found relevance in the subject matter (a woman with medical history of depressions is in risk of getting redundant and has two days and one night to convince her colleagues to give up on their annual bonuses in order for the boss to keep her), a candid performance by exquisite Marion Cotillard, good cinematography and room for identification and empathy. And many other positive things, like the soundtrack, secondary characters and so on so forth. But still. I did not leave the cinema moved and enthused, like, say, when I watched L'enfant in BFI Southbank back on 2005 (the Q & A with the directors following the screening could have helped drive my exhilaration in disproportionate heights).

To my apparent surprise, the film is nominated for the Audience Award in the European Film Awards, which made me revisit my half-hearted approach. Only then I realised -and my findings were rather grim. a) My passion/excitement for the arts and culture suffered a considerable crisis after 2010, just like the economy. My ardent belief that "art will save us"(and I count cinema in the realm of arts -the 7th one) was put in question, after seeing that budgets in culture were the first ones to cut and, alas, after opening my eyes and facing the truth: economy rules the world. b) After 10 years plus of being obsessed/working with culture non-stop, one can feel saturated. Ultimately sad to say, but rather true. There comes a time when one feels he needs hell loads of inspiration to feel moved from a work of art/book/film etc. Inevitably the standards are higher. No matter how much I appreciate and value artistic effort over the result per se, oh, well, years of involvement with art have raised the bar. Too many comparisons. Less impulse, more thinking.

Time to get over it, I guess. I will have to re-invent myself and find in me the little child eager to re-discover the world. I will need a helping hand, someone to make me forget - just like the Dardennes did with Marion Cotillard during rehearsals:  “Our task was to let her be part of the adventure and for her not to feel the weight of her past – to be as naked as possible, and just to be" (The Guardian).

Long live the Dardenne brothers. And. Long live innocence. 

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