Skip

Cinematic depictions of alienation in the workplace?
January 25, 2010 9:51 AM   Subscribe

Cinematic depictions of alienation in the workplace?

Hi everyone - I want to explore themes of alienation in the workplace as represented in contemporary cinema for an essay. Could any of you recommend me any films you have seen which depict a workplace as alienating? Thanks in advance,

FA
posted by FuckingAwesome to Media & Arts (47 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Office Space is the classic one.
posted by muddgirl at 9:53 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Two that come to mind immediately:

Office Space
Fight Club
posted by nitsuj at 9:53 AM on January 25, 2010


Brazil

Haiku Tunnel

Office Space
posted by OmieWise at 9:53 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Office Space and Brazil immediately come to mind.
posted by griphus at 9:53 AM on January 25, 2010


Joe Versus the Volcano
posted by Burhanistan at 9:54 AM on January 25, 2010


"Office Space" for sure.

"9 to 5" shows it from a (1970s) woman's point of view.

"American Beauty" doesn't dedicate the entire movie to it, but it's in there, if you're looking for something in a more seriously vein than "Office Space."
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:54 AM on January 25, 2010


Are you interested in movies about factory work, strikes, mining, etc. Because then things like Germinal, Matewan, etc. will begin to come in.
posted by OmieWise at 9:54 AM on January 25, 2010


Being John Malkovich certainly doesn't paint a corporate office in a welcoming light.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:55 AM on January 25, 2010


Time Out/L'Emploi du temps (2001):

Recently fired from his job, but unable to confess the truth to his close-knit family, Vincent spends his days driving around the countryside, talking into his cell phone and staring into space. Vincent fabricates a new job for himself so his family and friends will not know that he is out of work. At one point, he even sneaks into an office building. As Vincent roams the building's sterile halls, peeking into meeting rooms where men are busy at work, we see a man who yearns not just for a new job, but also for a place in the world. While this pantomime of work initially registers as sad and even a little pathetic, it slowly and unnervingly becomes terrifying.
posted by R. Mutt at 9:59 AM on January 25, 2010


Also: Wanted, He Was A Quiet Man, Boss of it All, Secretary.

There's also a film I'm sort of afraid to search for due to possible monitoring of my searches at work. It is an absurdist film about people working in an office spontaneously exploding.
posted by griphus at 10:00 AM on January 25, 2010


The silent classic "Metropolis" depicts the factory workers as dehumanized, if that's what you're looking for.

Also, "After Hours".
posted by Melismata at 10:07 AM on January 25, 2010


Tati's Playtime
posted by Think_Long at 10:08 AM on January 25, 2010


I cannot think of a better film for this very project than Clockwatchers.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:12 AM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


All of them? I don't think I've ever seen a movie where an office is portrayed in any positive manner. The modern cubicle workplace is absolutely cinematic shorthand for alienation and isolation.
posted by GuyZero at 10:22 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Apartment (although the do have the best office party).
posted by rongorongo at 10:23 AM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Do short films count? If so, there's one by Neill Blomkamp (District 9) called Tempbot.
posted by sharkfu at 10:28 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Glengarry Glen Ross
posted by DrGail at 10:32 AM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


There's a 1995 movie named "Heavy" - about a cook and his mom owning a restaurant. They're both pretty alienated.
posted by czechmate at 10:32 AM on January 25, 2010


Extract, though like Office Space it's mostly used for comedic effect.
posted by doh ray mii at 10:33 AM on January 25, 2010


Ressources humaines
posted by amusem at 10:36 AM on January 25, 2010


If your definition of "workplace" is flexible enough, there's Clerks and its many imitators.
posted by AugieAugustus at 10:36 AM on January 25, 2010


Happiness (not most of it, but the scenes in Joy's workplace)
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:40 AM on January 25, 2010


(I mean Joy's cubicle job, not the school, though the latter isn't exactly welcoming!)
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:41 AM on January 25, 2010


One fine depiction is Michael Winterbottom's Wonderland (not the Val Kilmer movie) which has, among its characters, an expectant father who hates his job as a salesman and decides to quit. This is only a minor theme, though. Great film, mind you. One of my favorites.
posted by Kattullus at 10:48 AM on January 25, 2010


If you really mean "workplace" and not only "office," here are some possibilities:

North Country
Modern Times
Glengarry Glen ross
The Devil Wears Prada

And the must-see documentary:
The Corporation
posted by Paris Elk at 10:56 AM on January 25, 2010


Working Girl
posted by archimago at 10:59 AM on January 25, 2010


In the Company Of Men
posted by The Whelk at 11:05 AM on January 25, 2010


The Full Monty and The Insider.
posted by ceri richard at 11:07 AM on January 25, 2010


The Crowd
posted by minifigs at 11:09 AM on January 25, 2010


Boiler Room
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:27 AM on January 25, 2010


Brazil
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:28 AM on January 25, 2010


Visioneers, while not awesome, fits your criteria pretty well.
posted by pkphy39 at 11:28 AM on January 25, 2010


I should note that people literally explode from work-related stress in that movie.
posted by pkphy39 at 11:29 AM on January 25, 2010


The Incredibles
posted by dws at 11:39 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Silkwood.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 11:40 AM on January 25, 2010




Way Downtown, in which Don McKellar staples motivational phrases into his chest ("Don't make excuses, make improvements!").
posted by Beardman at 12:10 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Machinist, with Christian Bale. [didn't imdb link - they only show "el maquinista" as title, but still show Christian Bale in it - imdb has gotten weird/worse lately]
posted by yesster at 12:27 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The beginning of the Matrix is pretty good for this.
posted by litleozy at 1:20 PM on January 25, 2010


OH OH

There's also the end of a foreign film, called L'auberge espagnole (known as Pot Luck, Euro Pudding or The Spanish Apartment in English)

Essentially, at the end of the movie, main character settles for an office job, starts his first day and his colleagues have the smallest, dullest lives in the world (conversation is about office heating with very boring injokes) and it's heavily implied he would become as small minded as they are if he kept on at the job. Scene ends with him running out of the building.

Do you mean alienation in the Marxist sense btw?
posted by litleozy at 1:25 PM on January 25, 2010


The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, ~1956.
posted by SuzB at 2:59 PM on January 25, 2010


I've never seen it, but Bartleby (2001) is based on the granddaddy of all modern alienated office worker stories, Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener.
posted by Bron at 3:22 PM on January 25, 2010


How to get ahead in Advertising?
posted by OmieWise at 3:26 PM on January 25, 2010


Network (1976)
posted by Drop Daedalus at 3:58 PM on January 25, 2010


First thing I thought of was this youtube classic.
posted by BoscosMom at 9:52 PM on January 25, 2010


Seconding Waydowntown.

Delicate Art of Parking

The Good Girl
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:06 PM on January 25, 2010


Working Girl?
posted by Violet Hour at 11:54 PM on January 25, 2010


« Older Last year I almost bought a ne...   |  How can I fix the surface of p... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.


Post