wed 17/08/2022

DVD: The Measure of a Man | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: The Measure of a Man

DVD: The Measure of a Man

Inhuman employment's human cost is weighed in a French prize-winner

Eyes in the sky: Thierry (Vincent Lindon, right) watches his co-workers

Stéphane Brizé’s film is about the grubby tyranny and humiliation of working life. Middle-aged Thierry (Vincent Lindon, Best Actor at Cannes and the Césars) has a hangdog face which fails to mask his anger after being unjustly laid off. He seems traumatised, tense. And every time he attempts to work, more self-respect is chiselled from him.

At the job centre, or in an unexpected interview by Skype, his manner, posture and age are picked over as if he’s raw material or a coat on a rack, not a human being. Thierry lacks, he is told, “amiability”. He can’t quite bring himself, in other words, to say thanks as he bends over.

His warm family life with a loving wife and disabled teenage son is exhausting, and teetering on a precipice. But no one is any longer expected to care about that. Finally, he gets work far below his old salary, as a security guard in a supermarket with a surveillance centre the Stasi would envy. Its cameras are trained on staff as much as customers. Everyone’s a suspect, every job perhaps surplus.

As Brizé explains in the interview which is the DVD release's main extra, he favoured mostly non-professionals playing their real jobs for his supporting cast, long scenes with few shots, hand-held cameras and mono sound: a naturalistic setting. Like the Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night, and Ken Loach’s forthcoming I, Daniel Blake, the film asks for solidarity and dignity in a society which deems such characters economically wasteful. It’s a timely protest film, which quietly ticks with the tension that something awful is going to happen – more awful even than this daily grind.

“No one should feel in any way responsible,” a head office Human Resources manager tells the supermarket staff, after the petty backroom prosecutions and sackings have driven one of them too far. Whether Thierry can feel personally responsible, and bear the cost, is the film’s question. It feels a lonely and important one, unasked by those pressing down on his life.

He's picked over as if he’s a coat on a rack, not a human being


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters