In their seemingly simple film Deux jours, une nuit (2014) and in sharp sunlight the Dardenne brothers show a young woman fighting for her job: Sandra. We see a middle class family: husband and wife both have a job, a car, a Delaney home and kids. Having two incomes is no luxury. But assistance benefit, having to leave the house: decay is in the offing. During the weekend, Deux jours, une nuit, and screwing up her courage Sandra visits her 16 colleagues: Monday, when you have to vote for 3 extra hours and a bonus or for me keeping my job, will you, please, vote for me?
There appear to be voters in favour and voters against. Some are equally threatened as Sandra and her family and try to maintain their living standard with side jobs. Some slam the door in her face. But others allow something rare to happen: they feel ashamed for not having stood up for her earlier. Others bargain where bargaining is not just: “only if I can keep my job”, or “I need the money for a terrace behind my house”.
In 1998 Richard Sennett wrote a crystal clear book, with a predictive value: The Corrosion of Character, The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism. In the Ethics of Care as a political Ethics the term ‘precariousness’ is used to refer to processes creating insecurity in society: vulnerability and insecurity are social and political constructs. It is not that you are vulnerable, you are made vulnerable by politics from above. Sandra’s big boss considers himself to be very decent towards her. With the boss below him he did not stick to procedures, he set up workers against each other, and these workers have allowed this to happen. Indeed, personalities are corroded: who was close betrays, who really has something to lose becomes courageous and shows solidarity. Precariousness slowly brings about a watershed: those who are happy to be able to sleep quietly, those who understand they can remain strong and show solidarity. They can do without a terrace behind the house.
Deux jours, une nuit (2014). A film by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, featuring Marion Cotillard