Telluride 2014: World Economics 1, “Two Days, One Night”

The Telluride Film Festival screened films showing widely varying looks at economic conditions around the world. One of the strongest films at Telluride was “Two Days, One Night”, another notable writer/director collaboration from brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne of Belgium. The Dardennes have twice received the Palme d’Or, the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival for “Rosetta” (1999) and “The Child” (2005).

Marion Cotillard is superb as Sandra, a woman desperate to keep her factory job.  After returning from a sick leave, she finds her position will be downsized due to foreign competition.  After pleading, she is told by a factory manager she can keep her job only if she convinces the other workers over the week-end to give up their upcoming bonus.

Marion Cotillard  in “Two Days, One Night”

Marion Cotillard in “Two Days, One Night”

Over the weekend she must visit her coworkers and ask them to vote to give up their increase so that she can stay employed. The film has a fascinating complexity as, while Sandra is asking for her own job, she is fully aware of how much her coworkers would depend on the added income at their humble employment level.

Cotillard gives an emotionally intense performance as Sandra visits her fellow factory workers, embarrassed to ask for their sacrifice and feeling “like a beggar”, but knowing how necessary her employment is to her family’s economic struggle.  Cotillard is extremely moving as Sandra whose emotional state is precarious.

Sandra (Marion Cotillard)  and coworkers in “Two Days, One Night”

Sandra (Marion Cotillard) and coworkers in “Two Days, One Night”

The screenplay skillfully creates a variety of characters, so that each of Sandra’s visits is different, one even turning into a family fight. The film builds tension as Sandra, supported by her husband (Fabrizio Rongione) resolutely continues on her quest, seeking allies by the short deadline.

With “Two Days, One Night”, the Dardennes have widened the scope of their films. Their previous films looked at a character’s single personal story.  This one looks at a protagonist and her place in a larger group.

It’s been a strong year for Marion Cotillard. She is also memorable in “The Immigrant”, my favorite film of the year. Further thoughts:

Future posts will look the world economy through films from Russia and the US.

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