FOOT WORK | Two Days, One Night

Sandra suffers under the banal but insidious machinations of bureaucratic capitalism, but she can only resist at a human scale. By Louis Rogers

In order to keep her job, Sandra has to spend her weekend – two days, one night – visiting each of her colleagues to persuade them to vote to forgo their bonuses and keep her on. The task is gruelling, repetitious, awkward: a minor-key feat of endurance and resilience. And so, almost the entirety of the Dardenne brothers’ film follows Sandra as she does what needs to be done, battling the humiliation it entails, the various dramas it throws up, plus the admonishing pressure of her own depression.

Sandra travels around Seraing, the industrial Belgian town where the film is set, by bus and car but most strikingly by foot. We see her striding from house to house, up flights of stairs, across car parks and football pitches. When Sandra first hears about her employer’s callous decision she breaks down, crying “I don’t exist. I’m nothing.” It’s through her interactions with her colleagues but also, seemingly, through moving through the world between them, that she recovers her sense of self. Walking, she moves entirely through her own effort and on her own terms; Rebbecca Solnit writes in Wanderlust that “walking is how the body measures itself against the earth”.

Sandra suffers under the banal but insidious machinations of bureaucratic capitalism, but she can only resist at a human scale. When a system is dehumanising, reasserting your humanity is resisting it. In the film’s closing scene, we see her walking away from the factory, across the wide, sparse roads of an industrial estate designed with vehicles in mind. In the wake of the battle she has fought, the simple act of walking undaunted across a terrain which means to define her a small, docile part is resonantly defiant.

 

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