In the final part of the “work trilogy”, the excellent French filmmaker Stephane Brize and the equally masterful actor Vincent Lindon joined forces again. After previously being unemployed and frantically looking for work in “The Measure of a Man” and then the union boss at a factory laying off workers in “At War”, Lindon now finds himself on the other side. Now he is the director of a factory that operates as part of an international corporation based in America and now he is the one who has been given the task of handing out layoffs. “Un autre monde” or “Another World” was an excellent ending to an informal and exceptional trilogy with which Brize brilliantly completed the story of life and work in France.
Although France is known as a country of powerful trade unions, and every now and then we see on the news huge protests there in which workers are fighting for their rights, it is clear that even it is not bypassed by the rules of the modern market economy. This cynical system, in which the value of the company often increases depending on the number of laid-off workers, and the greater the number of people thrown onto the street, usually means bigger bonuses and awards at the end of the year for the management. Philippe is a man in his fifties who clearly gave everything for his company. In the opening scenes, we see him agreeing with his wife Anne (Sandrine Kiberlain, who is a very interesting choice for this role because she is in reality Lindon’s ex-wife) in the company of a lawyer, negotiating the terms of the divorce.
About thirty years of living together came down to listing and dividing property, and soon we understand the reason for the breakup of the marriage. Anne is fed up with the fact that her husband is never there, that he works all the time and has no time for his family, which, as we will see a little later, had serious consequences for their student son, who ended up in a psychiatric institution. Philippe’s income for all those years is calculated, the joint property, how much Anne lost all those years for following her husband and everything that goes into those painful divorce cases. And then we move into Philippe’s everyday reality and the reasons why his family fell apart.
He is the director of one of the French factories of a company based in America, and at a board meeting he receives the task that every French factory must lay off ten workers. His superiors unquestioningly accept the demands of the American CEO, and Philippe presents the plan to the heads of all departments in his factory, who are furious because people are already overstretched and can barely meet the megalomaniac demands from the top. Neither Philippe nor his fellow directors of the other French factories are enthusiastic about the order, all the more so because they had to lay off people a few years ago and were assured then that it would be the last time. But the shareholders are obviously never enough, and the easiest thing to do is to accuse people because workers are usually just numbers for them.
For Philippe, these people are not really numbers because he knows them all and he has a difficult decision to make and he will have to decide for himself whether he is ready to sacrifice his own comfort, security, quality of life with lucrative bonuses and awards at the end of the year. And it will happen exactly in a situation when he seems to be questioning his life and as if he is starting to see where his dedication to work, burnout, overwork has brought him. He is trying to find some other solutions that could replace the layoffs and hopes that first his colleagues will accept the plan he devised, and then the management. However, it is clear from the beginning that all this is self-delusion and futile attempts to save jobs that have no way out, it will be for him a kind of attempt at redemption and a substitute for saving the family that fell apart and is no longer there.
This exciting, dynamic and intense drama had its premiere in the main program of the festival in Venice, and Brize really wrapped up the theme that he treated almost in a documentary style in the previous two films in a high-quality way. The topic of work and jobs in today’s advanced stage of corporate capitalism, a globalized economy in which people are expendable and easily replaceable goods. It’s a great psychological drama that shows the other side of the coin compared to the previous two films and brings the whole picture of a horrifying system that grinds and doesn’t care about people at all.