“Solidarity in the face of the crisis”
by Aurore Engelen
- CANNES 2014: Once again, work is at the heart of the film from the Dardenne brothers, who return for the sixth time in the Official Competition with Two Days, One Night
Delighted to be at the Croisette, the Dardenne brothers return for the sixth time in the Official Competition with Two Days, One Night [+see also:
interview: Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne
film profile], a film in the rather unique vein of their cinema, an extremely social cinema, focused on human beings.
Cineuropa: Where does the theme of Two Days, One Night come from?
Luc Dardenne: In 1998, at Peugeot France, a team had agreed to sack one of their own who was preventing them from obtaining higher production bonuses. Then there was news closer to home; sometimes people stood together in solidarity. For example, workers accepted to each lose 2 or 3% of their salary to avoid a sacking.
Jean-Pierre Dardenne: It’s the fruit of a long maturation, and the fact that the financial crisis has transformed into an economic and social crisis has without a doubt pushed us to resume this story.
L.: We wanted to tell the story of a woman who can’t get her job back because the management have suggested to the other workers to opt for their bonus rather than for her reintegration. Sandra has a loving husband, and children, but that family stability is not enough for her fulfilment. The others must show their solidarity so that she can regain confidence in herself and no longer be afraid. Without knowing the ending, we knew that we were telling the story of a woman who had to overcome her fear.
The film has a strong moral significance…
J-P.: Every person who Sandra meets is faced with a choice. Solidarity is also an ethical matter; it’s a personal choice. In spite of peer pressure, it remains a personal choice. Sandra imposes her morals as well. Obviously, the issue when tackling ethical or moral matters is to not indulge in the task…
At what point in writing the script did you choose to work with Marion Cotillard, and does that change the way you work?
J-P.: We met Marion in 2011, for another character, that of a young doctor in the suburbs. But we got stuck in the writing, and we came back to the character of Sandra. And as we really wanted to work with Marion, and vice-versa, she became Sandra.
L.: Marion is a real star, and that meant, as much for her as for us, making people forget what she had been in other films and, above all, in fashion. She needed to find a new body, a new figure. We nevertheless kept the same working methods: a month of rehearsals. We need the slow work pace of the rehearsals. Every day we dress the actors, we look for costumes, hairstyles, and we film the rehearsals…
You are also present in Cannes as co-producers of the film by Ken Loach. How do you see your work as co-producers?
L.: For Ken Loach, as well as for Cristian Mungiu, for example, we followed Why Not and Pascal Caucheteux, a friend. When looking for a French co-producer for a project, we look to that of our films, Denis Freyd (Archipel 35), and he suggested The Minister [+see also:
interview: Pierre Schoeller
film profile]. The whole thing is based on relationships of esteem and friendship. Clearly, the suggestion is naturally the directors who we are interested in… We’ve just discovered a new producer in Paris, and we’ve co-produced Cédric Kahn’s next film, Wild Life (produced by Les Films du Lendemain, editor’s note). We’re also producing Terre Battue by Stéphane Demoustier.
Do you feel like European directors?
J-P.: With the threat hanging over European creation, we feel more European than ever before. We launched a petition at the end of 2013, stating, "The cultural exception is not negotiable," to encourage European heads of state to speak out in favour of the exclusion of audiovisual and cinematographic services from the negotiations between Europe and the US. Some people tried to undermine the movement in different countries, by saying to the signatories who weren't French: "Why are you doing that? You’re not French!" But it’s not a French issue; it’s a European issue.
L.: If we don’t protect ourselves, there will be no more European cinema. We went to see Karel de Gucht, the Belgian European Commissioner in charge of the dossier, and the discussion was a heated one. We told him that he would be digging the grave of European cinema if ever he disallowed the cultural exception in the digital sphere. "We’re not in China," he answered. "You can’t legislate on digital." But of course we can! Out of respect for individual freedoms, we must. If not, we will be thrashed!
J-P.: We’re not against American cinema. Simply put, we must find a means to be able to continue producing films in this part of the world called Europe…
Thierry Frémaux said a few years ago: "The Dardenne brothers at Cannes... it's like Germany in football - in the end, it’s always them who win…"
L.: I’m sure you’ve seen that Bayern just lost!
J-P.: Thierry Frémaux has a way with words... We’re content with being the Belgian national team! If there’s a prize on offer, all the better, naturally. There are 18 directors in competition, and the same number of people hoping for a prize!
L.: We’re delighted to be back in Cannes. We would have been disappointed if we hadn’t been selected. Obviously, if everything goes well in Cannes, the film acquires a good image. Indeed, we're releasing the film at the same time, because for us it’s crucial that the film manages to reach a huge audience.
(Translated from French)