One pair of pants, two blouses, a rented car, and a handful of actors—Two Days, One Night serves as compelling evidence that cinema can, in fact, be executed in a minimalist manner. It was a film I had eagerly anticipated, primarily because I am an admirer of Marion Cotillard. The latest work by the Dardenne brothers was, according to some critics, considered one of the finest films of the year.
Naturally, one cannot help but be curious. Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, the two brothers, return with a brand-new film after a three-year hiatus. What these two individuals have accomplished in their film is to once again confront a reality: there’s no need to spend exorbitant sums; a good script and talented actors suffice for filmmaking. A simple, everyday story from life converges with quality actors, perpetually capturing moments through an unrelenting camera.
The Dardenne brothers have chosen a straightforward tale. It’s a reality that countless millions of people face in today’s world. Sandra has lost her job due to a workplace vote. According to the vote conducted by 16 people at her workplace, either Sandra will be laid off, and the rest will receive their annual bonuses, or Sandra will stay on the job, but the bonuses will be forfeited.
Naturally, the majority voted in favor of the bonuses because the bonus is 1,000 euros. In a time of crisis, extra money can feel like a lifeline. Sandra, who has been laid off, does everything in her power to reach an agreement with her boss and demands a recount the following Monday. This way, Sandra has two days to convince her colleagues to vote in favor of her retaining her job and forfeiting their bonuses. The subject is as simple as that. Throughout the film, we witness Sandra visiting her colleagues one by one, making efforts to persuade them, their hesitations, and even their resignations from life.
She has her husband by her side, who supports her wholeheartedly, but success will not come easily because the film subtly conveys the difficulties of unemployment and finding work in Belgium. We clearly see that for 1,000 euros, people can be willing to wish for others to lose their jobs, argue, or even fight.
Surprisingly, everyone in the film seems to be living comfortably on the surface, but beneath the modern facade, everyone is struggling with financial difficulties. It appears that unemployment is a problem in Belgium, Liege, and people do not want to remain jobless, as evidenced by their reactions; it’s clear that finding a job is not easy. At the time the film was made, the unemployment rate in Liege was 23%, a pretty high figure. This explains Sandra’s fear.
The subject is an ordinary situation that anyone can experience. In fact, such people exist; they are everywhere. The film is like a slice of life. Imagine this: it’s 4 AM, you get out of bed, look out the window, and see a car passing by on an empty street. Have you ever wondered? In the middle of the night, why is that person in the car passing through this deserted street? What happened to staying in your warm bed? The story focuses on the concerns of an ordinary citizen whom we don’t know, but whose existence we acknowledge. Suddenly, we dive into Sandra’s life, someone we’ve never met, and become part of her troubles. In the vastness of a million-year-old world, we observe the life of one person for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
I may not concur with the critics’ claims that it is the best film of the year, but I can confidently assert that it is one of the top 10 films of 2014. The pitiable situation that Marion Cotillard’s character finds herself in, the reproaches of the families accompanying her, and the unceasing gaze of the directors’ camera make the film flow effortlessly, like a river. One of the details that enrich the film is the directors’ approach to shooting. We witness the relationship between acting and theater portrayed masterfully. The Dardenne brothers have completed the film with as few shots as possible, using long takes to allow the actors to showcase themselves to maintain the flow of life without constantly reminding us that it is a film. Within the first few minutes of the film, there is a nearly ten-minute single shot. The prolonged presence of the camera places a significant demand on the actors, and Marion Cotillard, once again, proves her exceptional talent.
The quality of acting in the film is on par with what one would expect from an Oscar-nominated American production. Marion Cotillard receives awards from numerous festivals for her performance in the film, including the European Film Festival. Despite being nominated for an Academy Award, she lost the award to Julianne Moore for the film “Still Alice.” The sequence shot during the father-son fight scene is one of the highest-quality sequence shots I have witnessed in recent times. This is evidence of the actors’ and directors’ excellence, as they managed to incorporate so much in such a short time. As someone familiar with Hollywood films, I may have expected a constant rise in tempo throughout the film, but everything unfolds as it should. Just like in real life, everything in the film transpires as it naturally should.
“Two Days, One Night” narrates a subject that could be taking place in our daily lives at any moment, perhaps one that our upstairs neighbor is experiencing without our awareness. Unfortunately, I do not believe that everyone will appreciate this film. Some viewers may crave action; they may desire intricate plots. “Two Days, One Night,” on the other hand, remains firmly rooted in reality throughout the film.
In summary, “Two Days, One Night” is a striking film that authentically portrays the challenges of unemployment and job-seeking in Belgium, effectively representing the economic crisis in small European cities. With Marion Cotillard’s Oscar-worthy performance and the directors’ shooting technique, it transforms into a film that will leave a lasting impression.
Cast & Crew
director: Luc Dardenne, Jean-Pierre Dardenne
writers: Luc Dardenne, Jean-Pierre Dardenne
starring: Marion Cotillard
ITALY – BELGIUM – FRANCE | 2014 | 95 MINUTES |