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  • Super­powers on the job


    Jörg Markowitsch

    What to do with superhuman abilities on the job? Superheroes don't give much information on this. A troll in one of the most extraordinary Swedish films of recent years (Border, 2018), on the other hand does.

    Super­he­roes, whether from Marvel, Disney or DC Comics, usually all have a job as well. Clark Kent (Superman) is a reporter, Peter Parker (Spider-Man) is a pho­to­gra­pher, Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) is a nurse/archeologist and Bruce Wayne (Batman) is a business tycoon, part-time or as his main job, however you want to look at it. But, the unwritten laws of main­tai­ning superhero parallel universes forbid them from using their powers where they are gainfully employed, leaving us wanting.

    The very idea that someone equipped with super­powers going to the job-centre or attending a job interview poses inte­res­ting chal­len­ges for employ­ment agencies and HR depart­ments alike. What would the world of work look like if a few col­leagues had super­hu­man abilities as part of their skillset? How would they fare in their jobs?

    For all their other ingenuity, US comics and US block­bus­ters are unusually lacking and con­sist­ent­ly averse to deve­lo­ping these questions. It is all the more striking when such a cir­cum­s­tance is staged at all. This is the case, for example, in the Swedish fantasy love drama “Border” (2018) by Ali Abbasi.

    The main character of the film, Tina (Eva Melander, great acting in surreal prost­he­tics), works at customs and checks through ferry pas­sen­gers entering Sweden. She has an uncannily good nose for people who are afraid, feel shame or guilt. She spots them out immedia­te­ly, mostly con­fis­ca­ting excess alcohol. But on one occasion she sniffs out the owner of a memory card con­tai­ning child por­no­gra­phy. With her special gift, she tips off the police inves­ti­ga­ting cases of abuse. The fact that Tina is a very, very special outsider is obvious from the beginning because of her unusual appearan­ce. Later on, one discovers (spoiler alert) that she is indeed a troll and male, fully rendering his character: Queer humanoid customs officer with superpowers.

    The Swedes sent the film into the race for the Oscar for “Best Foreign Language Film” and it was nominated as Best Film for the European Film Awards. In my opinion, Border is the best Swedish film since 2008’s “So Dark the Night”, which was showered with awards. Both films were written by the Swedish writer John Erik Ajvide Lindqvist and therefore have a lot in common. They portray outsiders, combine elements of fantasy and horror with social realism, thus broa­de­ning our horizons.

    The idea of the super­hu­man migrates into the everyday in his stories and makes us rethink otherness. In the case of “So Dark the Night”, for example, it is a depiction of the lone­li­ness and the daily struggles of a 12-year-old girl in a Stockholm council estate, who is in fact a vampire with blood in her fridge.

    Both films question gender iden­ti­ties in delight­ful­ly sur­pri­sing and clever ways. However, “Border” embraces the question of the meaning and con­se­quen­ces of alterity in the pro­fes­sio­nal and working world.

     

    Border (Trailer), Ali Abbasi, 2008 

    Border, 2018, Filmstill

    Border, 2018, Filmstill

    Eva Melande in Border, 2018, Filmstill

    Tags

    Super­powers on the job

    Jörg Markowitsch

    What to do with superhuman abilities on the job? Superheroes don't give much information on this. A troll in one of the most extraordinary Swedish films of recent years (Border, 2018), on the other hand does.

    Super­he­roes, whether from Marvel, Disney or DC Comics, usually all have a job as well. Clark Kent (Superman) is a reporter, Peter Parker (Spider-Man) is a pho­to­gra­pher, Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) is a nurse/archeologist and Bruce Wayne (Batman) is a business tycoon, part-time or as his main job, however you want to look at it. But, the unwritten laws of main­tai­ning superhero parallel universes forbid them from using their powers where they are gainfully employed, leaving us wanting.

    The very idea that someone equipped with super­powers going to the job-centre or attending a job interview poses inte­res­ting chal­len­ges for employ­ment agencies and HR depart­ments alike. What would the world of work look like if a few col­leagues had super­hu­man abilities as part of their skillset? How would they fare in their jobs?

    For all their other ingenuity, US comics and US block­bus­ters are unusually lacking and con­sist­ent­ly averse to deve­lo­ping these questions. It is all the more striking when such a cir­cum­s­tance is staged at all. This is the case, for example, in the Swedish fantasy love drama “Border” (2018) by Ali Abbasi.

    The main character of the film, Tina (Eva Melander, great acting in surreal prost­he­tics), works at customs and checks through ferry pas­sen­gers entering Sweden. She has an uncannily good nose for people who are afraid, feel shame or guilt. She spots them out immedia­te­ly, mostly con­fis­ca­ting excess alcohol. But on one occasion she sniffs out the owner of a memory card con­tai­ning child por­no­gra­phy. With her special gift, she tips off the police inves­ti­ga­ting cases of abuse. The fact that Tina is a very, very special outsider is obvious from the beginning because of her unusual appearan­ce. Later on, one discovers (spoiler alert) that she is indeed a troll and male, fully rendering his character: Queer humanoid customs officer with superpowers.

    The Swedes sent the film into the race for the Oscar for “Best Foreign Language Film” and it was nominated as Best Film for the European Film Awards. In my opinion, Border is the best Swedish film since 2008’s “So Dark the Night”, which was showered with awards. Both films were written by the Swedish writer John Erik Ajvide Lindqvist and therefore have a lot in common. They portray outsiders, combine elements of fantasy and horror with social realism, thus broa­de­ning our horizons.

    The idea of the super­hu­man migrates into the everyday in his stories and makes us rethink otherness. In the case of “So Dark the Night”, for example, it is a depiction of the lone­li­ness and the daily struggles of a 12-year-old girl in a Stockholm council estate, who is in fact a vampire with blood in her fridge.

    Both films question gender iden­ti­ties in delight­ful­ly sur­pri­sing and clever ways. However, “Border” embraces the question of the meaning and con­se­quen­ces of alterity in the pro­fes­sio­nal and working world.

     

    Border (Trailer), Ali Abbasi, 2008

    Border, 2018, Filmstill

    Border, 2018, Filmstill

    Eva Melande in Border, 2018, Filmstill

    Tags


    When pictures of economy went into motion

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    A new book introduces us to the important epistemologist Michael Polanyi as a didactician of economics and recalls his educational film "Unemployment and Money" (1940), which is still worth seeing today.

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    The key to successfully creating a hairstyle is, of course, the hairdresser's skill. But the art of hair is not limited to instrumental skills, it also includes the 'culturality' of hair. A contemporary critique of a traditional profession.

    The baker's routine gestures: a professional ‘classic’?

    The baker’s routine gestures: a pro­fes­sio­nal ‘classic’?

    In contemporary cinema, we often don’t question seemingly cliché images of bakers at work as seen in Antoine Fontaine's "Gemma Bovery" (2014) or Luke Jin's short film "La Boulangerie" (2017), but perhaps we should.

    Essential Workers vs. Bullshit Jobs

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    'In my blood it runs' (2019) is an intimate portrait of an Aboriginal boy and his family, as well as testimony to the glaring shortcomings of the Australian education system in dealing with their indigenous population.

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    About this blog

    By selecting a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. They are both based in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their cor­re­spon­ding articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.

    About this blog

    With picking a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. We both work in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their respec­ti­ve articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.