For change it’s nice to see a title that actually digs deep into the core themes of the film in an intelligent way. In this case there’s even an interesting difference between the original French and completely new English title. The French one roughly translates to “the rule of the market” and is closer tied to the overall encompassing theme of the current economical situation in Europe that has led to increase of unemployment and financial insecurity, while the English title goes for the catchier and more crowd pleasing, simplistic question about one’s moral fiber. I hate to admi itt, but out of the two, The Measure of a Man to me sounds a lot better, because it immediately has a good hook to get you interested, and I also like the thematics of it. The French title sounds too clinical and vague if you don’t know the context.
It’s not only the beginning, where Vincent Lindon is struggling to find employment at his age and you witness his deep frustration when the job training course he just spent months on has been revealed to be completely useless, where the title explores the thematics of the title of the film, but also when it becomes a question of how much can he bear spiritually when it comes to stomaching the cruel aspects of his new job as a super market security guard. At the stake is not only his own mental fortitude but also his family’s well being and happiness, as they very much depend on the reliable income that his new job provides to get by. It’s an interesting study of character, and the fact that we never really get inside the head of Vincent Lindon’s character makes it far more intriguing. You very much have to make your own deductions and this provides an ample opportunity to really flex those grey cells in your brain as you try to look at Vincent’s predicament at all angles as you try to put yourself in his boots.
The thing I love the most about this movie is how peacefully shot it is. The camera very often just lingers on a particular shot and lets the actors be, without resorting to constant cutting to close-ups. The film takes it time telling its story, and it really works well here, as the pacing is just right, it doesn’t rush into anything and allows you to get acquainted with the milieu properly before we get to what can be considered the actual meat of the story: Vincent after much struggle, finds himself being hired to a new job, but it reveals to contain many aspects that are, to say the least, troubling. To be good at his job, he has to suspect everybody in the store of being guilty of theft, including his own co-workers that work the cash registers. He is even explicitly told to keep an eye at the women working the check out lanes, as the management wants to lay off people and nothing would make it easier to terminate employment contracts than catching staff members guilty of pilfering red handed.
This is the point where we start see just how big of a man Vincent’s character really is and how much he can bear before he comes to a breaking point, and it’s absolutely captivating to follow as he tries to adjust to his new job duties. It’s one thing when he has to confront a thief who is an arrogant and rude young man trying to nick a phone charger that he could very well afford to pay with the money in his wallet. It’s another matter entirely when he has to put pressure on an old person who is caught red-handed stealing meat that they couldn’t afford buying because they’re so poor. When Vincent finally has had enough, it’s both exciting and terrifying. It’s great to see him putting his dignity and values over the job, but how will his family survive now? So much was dependent of that paycheck. You never get told the answer to that question and that’s one of the strengths of the way the story is told here. The movie handles the subject realistically, and that’s why I really appreciate that it doesn’t really try to supply a contrived solution to the problems Vincent’s character faces. Rather, the movie merely provides you a lens through which to examine the ramifications and consequences of the current socioeconomic strife Europe is facing in an unique, fictional way. It never pretends there are easy, obvious answers to anything. Even when you rejoice Vincent’s decision to quit his job, you have to question if all things considered, it was the right one.