×

Locarno: Profile of Antoine Russbach, Director of ‘Those Who Work’

Russbach discovers his groove in Belgium’s great modern tradition of ethically-probing naturalism

LOCARNO, Switzerland — Belgium was the making of Antoine Russbach, director of “Those Who Work,” the highest-profile Swiss debut world premiering at this year’s Locarno Festival, in its Filmmakers of the Present.

Born in Switzerland’s Geneva, Russbach studied at the Institut des Arts de Diffusion, about 19 miles south-east of Brussels, and spent his twenties in Belgium, before moving back home to Switzerland. At the IAD he made friends, such as France’s Emmanuel Marre, whose short, “The Summer Movie,” was one highlight at this year’s UniFrance MyFrenchFilmFestival, and who co-wrote “Those Who Work” with Russbach.

Sold by Be For Films, Russbach’s debut also stars Belgian actor Olivier Gourmet, who has appeared in every single film by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne from 1996’s “La Promesse,” to winning a Cannes best actor award for 2002’s “The Son.” In Belgium, Russbach says he, “learned to make very naturalistic, realistic movies, which are very good when talking about morality.”

“Those Who Work” is a case in point. Gourmet plays Frank, a 50-something fixer for a company which hires cargo ships, going to any length to get their goods to Europe on time. One day, with little time to think, to prevent a ship being put into quarantine, he orders a stowaway to be thrown overboard to certain death. His company summarily sacks him, not because of his heinous act, but out of fear of a media scandal.

“One thing that interests me a lot is the source of evil, looking also at how the ruling class can be alienated by the system, what part of responsibility individuals have in it,” Russbach says.

At the beginning of “Those Who Work,” Frank rules over his family, living in a flashy villa with patriarchal authority, and expressing utter faith in the system he works for. “What do you think about working hard for more money?” he asks one of his teen sons, testing whether his pro-system credentials.

The film leaves little doubt that the company’s bosses knew very well Frank’s methods, but turned a blind eye.

“I wanted to talk about white collar ideology, about guys who believe they’re part of the elite, masters of their own lives, when it’s not actually true,” says Russbach, adding that it’s only when Frank is sacked that the film shows how the system he worked for was actually using him.

Russbach and Marre named the film’s protagonist Frank to reference Frankenstein’s Monster, created by Mary Shelley when on holiday on Lake Geneva, “a monster that is our creation, does the things we would not dare to do, but are happy enough that someone does for us.”

Carried by Goumet’s performance, “Those Who Work” asks as many questions as it answers: The extent of Frank’s culpability; to what extent he, or Europe at large, locked into a consumer society, has any ability to change course.

“What I like about social movies is the way the system works on the individual, but also the way the individual is responsible in that system, how they give a very complex picture of these problems, the mess that’s in between,” says Russbach.

“Those Who Work” is conceived as part of a feature trilogy. “Those Who Fight” will examine security.

Says Russbach: “The nobility are people who protect you. So it’s about security and the price of security, in a country where you have insurance for everything.”

More Film

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

  • Lionsgate Hires Lynn Whitney in Marketing

    Lionsgate Hires Former Warner Bros. Exec Lynn Whitney

    Lionsgate announced Wednesday that Lynn Whitney will become head of worldwide paid media, partnerships, promotions and consumer products. Whitney was formerly the executive VP of worldwide media at Warner Bros.   In her new role, Whitney will build out media campaigns for movies like Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romantic comedy “Long Shot.” “I am [...]

  • El silencio de otros

    Film Review: 'The Silence of Others'

    “Forgiven but not forgotten” is a platitude we routinely use to end disputes both petty and grievous, but it’s the reverse outcome — the mass forgetting of crimes and conflicts never truly resolved — that itches away at a post-Franco Spain in “The Silence of Others.” Soberly chronicling the ongoing legal battle of General Franco’s [...]

  • A Womans Work-The NFLs Cheerleader Problem

    Tribeca Documentaries Explore Gender Issues in Sport

    Up until recently, what it meant to be a professional female athlete in a world dominated by men wasn’t an issue that garnered high volumes of public interest, let alone national headlines. But that all changed in October 2017 when stories from the New York Times and the New Yorker detailing sexual allegations and improper [...]

  • Lizzo Coachella Valley Music and Arts

    Lizzo Joins Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez in Stripper Film 'Hustlers'

    After the release of her third album and a pair of high-profile Coachella performances, Lizzo announced today that she will be joining Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez in the stripper-themed film “Hustlers.” Based on a true story, the film focuses on strippers who band together to turn the tables on their wealthy Wall Street male [...]

  • Ralph Fiennes attends a special screening

    Ralph Fiennes on Directing Rudolf Nureyev Biopic: 'It's Been a Very, Very Long Road'

    Ralph Fiennes celebrated his latest directorial outing, “The White Crow,” on Monday night in New York City. The Sony Pictures Classics film tells the story of legendary dancer Rudolf Nureyev. “It’s been a very, very long road. We were mad. We were mad to take on this subject of Rudolf Nureyev. Mad. Completely mad,” Fiennes [...]

  • Marc Malkin The Big Ticket Podcast

    Variety, iHeartMedia Launch New Film Podcast 'The Big Ticket' With Marc Malkin

    Variety and iHeartMedia have announced the premiere of “The Big Ticket,” a new weekly film-focused podcast hosted by Marc Malkin, the magazine’s senior film awards and events & lifestyle editor. The podcast will feature sit-down interviews with Hollywood’s hottest stars and filmmakers talking movies, the business and more. New episodes will be released every Thursday [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content