Tuesday, 7 June 2016

REVIEW - THE MEASURE OF A MAN (STEPHANE BRIZE)


The artistic landscape, dominated as it is by grand concepts and visions, by theories rather than truths, aspiration rather than compliance, fantasy rather than reality. Here is a film that rejects these trends, instead embraces those qualities of life that make it for so many real people, if not make it worth living. The Measure of a Man does not merely identify the facts of everyday mundanity in the modern workplace, it identifies with the people who participate therein, exposing, examining and sympathising with the thought processes that both influence and are influenced by the choices they make, and those made for them. Stephane Brize's hand-held camera generates less an observational style than an inquisitively intrusive one, not engaging the viewer in the action but affording them access to it - like the CCTV cameras in the film's latter half. As Vincent Lindon's beleaguered security guard becomes complicit in the cruelty of a system that once enacted such cruelty upon himself, so too do we acknowledge our role in witnessing similar events of subtle, slow-burning dehumanisation in the film's earlier half, in passing judgement on others for reasons beyond their control. This man (isn't it always a man?) may stand alone, but he is not alone in standing so; The Measure of a Man is a portrait of an entire social class in a portrait of one of its denizens, and never in that clumsy, didactic fashion purveyed by so many socially-conscious dramas. Indeed, compiled largely of fraught scenes of quiet despair shot in riveting long takes, excessive dramatic catharsis is rigorously avoided, an artistic stance that further complicates the film's conclusion - does it betray the nature of Brize's film? Is it too signposted to be effective? Or is it the denouement that best befits the narrative? The thought processes in The Measure of a Man transmute into those into the viewers' own minds. Reality is thus not only reflected, but informed by this most intelligent film.