Financial crash, followed by an extensive attack on the general public, austerity, left Europe’s population in tatters. Workers and worker’s rights lessened and wages continued to stagnate and decline. A desperate populous emerged as an even scarier phenomena for the ruling classes. The Working-class is now ostracised and treated like potential criminals. Businesses’ security, including cameras, heightened and everyone is always on edge about losing their job, for all is aware of the low-level of worker security. The impasse pushes our measure as people.
A 51-year-old man, Thierry, played by Vincent Lindon, completes a job training course which only returns the news that there isn’t a job at the end of it. ‘They are looking for experience,’ says the job-training ‘person’ who send people like Thierry on futile ‘back-to-work’ courses. His fellow suffers are engaged in the possibility of fighting this injustice; but Thierry wants to ‘move ahead’, as if the tell them ‘you cannot win’.
The Melancholic temperament, the tired persona and features, merge with a position Thierry has landed – below his previous experience, in status and in salary – as a supermarket security guard; mirror to the reality within the lives of 21st century Europeans.
The tired 51-year-old juggles work, home life, a micro-loan for a car and a disabled son, who faces challenges at school; the grim reality of carrying natural empathy for those who steal due to financial troubles, including workers, push Thierry limits as a man, a human and a worker. The thieves ‘do not have a colour or age,’ says his co-worker, while training Thierry on the cameras. The supermarket does not differentiate between workers and customers; everyone is a potential thief. A small, white-room becomes the centre of Thierry’s work-life. Staff and customers excused of taking are compelled to face an embarrassing interrogation by managers, security managers and Thierry himself.
Thierry passes through moments of humiliation. A banker urges him to sell his mobile home, to which Thierry refuses to sell onto a couple, who do not meet the price that is already under market value. The same loaner offers Thierry ‘life insurance’, claiming refuge in the possibility of Thierry’s death. “Times are ok now, but [the future is un-certain]”.
A distasteful journalist, Jordan Hoffman, from the Guardian, in his review of this picture, ‘the measure of a man‘, saved un peu (a little) sympathy for those accused of stealing: “… wants to suggest that it’s totally OK to steal on the job…[…]…something about this picture brought out my inner reactionary. Instead of cheering “right on” I was ready to shout “Hey, you know the rules, what were you thinking?!”.
The sociopathic element in general culture is expressed well through the feelings of Hoffman. A system designed to steal labor and leave its workers in financial ruin, while posting huge profit margins they never pay tax on — I suppose it is not enough for those liberal and privileged – and arrogant- folk to grow some empathy to other who do wrong in an un-certain struggle.
This scold reaction from J.Hoffman comes, gracefully, following a scribble acknowledging a quote from the movie: “The truth is, the bosses want a high turnover…[they want to fire and re-hire].” Apparently, this is not un-just or stealing.
The slow and repetitive picture measures, not essentially the measure of Thierry, but the place workers and a poor pensioner ends up… A accurate depiction of existential realities within our financial bearings. We wonder when Thierry will break – or even at all ?
Like many of his work, Stephane Brize critiques social realities through the eyes of the ‘small person’.