Posing as Labour: Resisting The Anxious Condition of Post-Fordism in European Film Narratives by Dardenne, Loach, Petzold and Seidl


  • Wim Peeters



 In an interview, filmmaker Christian Petzold highlights that post-Fordism not only changed economic activity but also the affective balance. Hope and optimism linked to future prospects appear as outdated sentimental attributes that do not match the transition in affect (Brian Massumi) people go through living on the threshold between inclusion and exclusion. Film makers such as Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne (La Promesse, 1996), Ken Loach (It’s a Free World..., 2007), Christian Petzold (Jerichow, 2007), and Ulrich Seidl (Import Export, 2008) do not take the characters’ struggle for social recognition and economic persistence through labour as a given. In their films, the fight for survival is no longer tied to a redeemable promise of happiness; instead, it is triggered by an immediate affective impulse within a perpetual state of anxiety. Only elusive, globally preformatted consumer events prove to be stable. Posing (Petzold) becomes the actual skill exercised here. Participating in this diminished realm of everyday life has a significant impact on interpersonal and, consequently, on employment dynamics. This paper will show, through plot analysis, how European cinema aesthetically captures this instable affective condition. The films depict the emergence of both violence and ethics from this situation, emphasising the protagonists’ resilience against all odds within an adverse environment dominated by anxiety.