Identity and Work, the Subtlety of Persuasion and the Importance of Being Present

imagesTwo Days One Night (2014) a film about Sandra, (played by Marion Cotillard) a young Belgian mother, who discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.

Is this something that could happen in real life? The Directors/Writers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne said the idea came from reading news stories about similar situations where workers solidarity was challenged. In the film, the workplace becomes a battleground, these are struggling workers with families and not CEO’s or fat cats. Sandra finds and creates solidarity, uncovering people’s true nature as well as her own.

Has the recession added to this where people are competing with each other for their jobs and is this in fact social realism? Central to the idea is validation through work, a precarious concept in an era of widespread unemployment. In an interview with the Guardian, the brothers are quoted as saying “If you don’t have a job, you are made to feel like an outcast from your community. Possibly in the future people will find another way to be part of the community that is not connected to work but for now that is where meaning lies. From an anthropological point of view, that is how mankind feels a sense of belonging.”

Cotillard talks about the difficulty of portraying her character: basically she has the same thing to say ten times. She had to find the evolution, the slight details that created the drive and motivation to keep Sandra moving even though she is telling people the same thing in her endeavours to persuade them to vote for her to keep her job and give up their bonuses. But because it’s almost but not the same thing, the tiniest changes in each scene meant Sandra’s confidence would go up and down and everything she could build up from those little differences would help her to identify how to angle each pitch she made.

Each meeting was filmed in real time, this allowed each of the characters to be fully present and accentuated the tension and the movements within that tension. The shots were addictive which draw the audience in. It’s like watching a live match, will they score, won’t they score … There is a strong focus on the audience, and the importance of creating a scene to take them on a journey. Everything is about taking them somewhere, surprising them, making them feel super special. Interestingly Cotillard said for a lot of directors its not about the audience!

The brothers spend a lot of time in the rehearsal process. They talk about rehearsal allowing the actors to be truly present and it’s only when they are truly present that the scene can exist and the tensions and rhythms arise. They say rehearsals allow the exploration of tracks, which then don’t need to be explored again. They say you only get the picture right once, there’s only one shot possible. There’s room for manoeuvre because they’re on the right track. They acknowledge that while every actor is different, the work of creating a presence is the same, making them as present as possible allowing the actors to have more of a presence. Every role was equally important making the scenes possible because everyone had a leading role.

The art of persuasion, negotiation and influence is built on the same powers of observation, the ability to notice the minutest change, to be fully present in the moment and to react in real-time is of utmost importance, because as the brothers say: “there’s only one shot possible” .

The reviews I write are by way of reflecting on cultural experiences to include performing and visual arts that touched my heart and my mind and making sense of them in the context of learning and development in both community and work-place.

Evolving Careers Players can help you develop your observational and persuasion skills and your ability to be fully present in the moment. We deliver 121 career coaching, group learning and development and outplacement services. We devise community forum theatre, corporate drama workshops and role-play scenarios. Get in touch to discuss your needs:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s