Director Stéphane Brizé/2015
Kino Lorber Blu-Ray Release Date: September 13, 2016
The Measure of a Man might very well be seen as the equally powerful companion piece to Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne’s 2014 film Two Days, One Night (Deux jours, une nuit). In that film, Marion Cotillard must face the humiliation of being fired by spending 2 days (and one night) trying to convince her co-workers to change their vote for a bonus, in order to use the bonus money to instead fund her job that has been declared redundant.
Through her powerful portrayal, we get a sense of the humiliation and the loss of dignity one can have when they are unable to work, despite desiring to do so to provide for their families. In The Measure of a Man, director Stéphane Brizé takes this notion one step further and through Vincent Lindon’s powerful performance, demonstrates the toll that being out of work for months can have on a man’s worth as he does everything that is asked of him, and still finds himself without work, with a family that is counting on him.
Director Stéphane Brizé is able to capture the lonely and humiliating tone and feel of this man’s soul, and by extension that of the unemployed, by simply pointing the camera at Vincent Lindon and letting him do the rest.
Vincent Lindon plays Thierry, a down on his luck laborer who is simply trying to find work after spending decades at his previous place of employment. We first meet Thierry as he helplessly questions the temp agency who has put him through a series of retraining programs meant to provide him the skills and training certifications necessary to earn him work in fields that are hiring. He finds that despite going through all of these steps, he is being dismissed during interviews because he still doesn’t have experience in those fields that potential employers would want in addition to the certifications.
Interviews for jobs, both in person, and on Skype reveal that the lack of prospects have taken a toll on Theirry to the point that he comes across as a mere shell of the person we sense he truly is. What is most humiliating is a group practice session where he does a mock interview and his fellow group members must break down their impression of him. It is meant to help him interview better, but it is yet another soul-sucking experience that robs him of whatever dignity he is clinging to.
Vincent Lindon is amazing in this role, and it was richly rewarded, as he won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival, a Cesar Award for Best Actor, and a Lumières Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of this man. He was also nominated for a European Film Award for Best Actor. Every scene with Lindon is required viewing.
What is heartbreaking to watch, after seeing how hollow this man is as he pursues new work, is the contrasting passion that Thierry has when he is at home with his wife and son. They have been living on savings, and are now at a point where they need cash, both to continue to afford their flat which only has a couple of more years before it is paid off, and to afford the school for their son who is only a year away from university. The pressure continues to mount, and Thierry is trying to hold on any way he can, eventually taking a job as a security guard at a local supermarket.
Director Stéphane Brizé is able to capture the lonely and humiliating tone and feel of this man’s soul, and by extension that of the unemployed, by simply pointing the camera at Vincent Lindon and letting him do the rest. Much of the film has the feel of a documentary, as if we are simply watching this man’s real life unfold before our eyes. Brizé uses wide angles, single continuous shots, and even the supermarket cameras to portray this story in the most natural light possible and the end result is a haunting depiction of what it is like to hunger to find work, yet finding nothing to truly satisfy that longing. And in the end, will it break Thierry, or will he find his last shred of dignity?
The film is in French with optional English subtitles. The Kino Lorber Blu-Ray release of The Measure of a Man features a trailer of the film, and a nice 15-minute interview with Director Stéphane Brizé where he breaks down the film’s story and shows you how he set out to craft the tone of this film with the angles and placements of the camera, to the fact that he used non-actors in most of the supporting roles to help convey the feeling of real life. For instance, a loan officer at a bank goes through Thierry’s assets, and it feels like a real conversation. It turns out, that he used these people so that they would speak in their everyday professional language to give this story the feel of authenticity at every turn. I must say that it provides his desired effect.
The Measure of a Man is a powerful film that must be seen, if only to witness Vincent Lindon’s performance, but more importantly to understand the dignity and value having a job can bring to an individual, and those they they love.
The images used in the review are present only as a reference to the film and are not meant to reflect the actual image quality of the Blu-ray.