CPH:DOX 2023 Review: AFTER WORK, In Pursuit of a Work-Free Existence
Erik Gandini's documentary travels the world, examining mankind's current approach to work and how we can prepare for the future.
In his latest film After Work, Italian-Swedish director Erik Gandini takes audiences on a worldwide exploration of a future where automation and artificial intelligence profoundly transform the way we live and work. Focusing on humanity's relationship with jobs, which have become significant determinants of one's identity and purpose, Gandini delves into the potential consequences of a work-free society.
Gandini, known for his previous works The Swedish Theory of Love, Videocracy, and Surplus, employs the 'what-if' method to project the future through the lens of the present. This approach leads him to examine different attitudes towards work across four countries, each offering unique insights into the evolving nature of work.
Eschewing a technological perspective, After Work centers on the human experience, showcasing "archetypes" from South Korea, the USA, Kuwait, and Italy. The film contrasts the workaholic cultures of South Korea and the USA with Kuwait's peculiar practice of paying people to pretend to work. Meanwhile, Italy serves as a glimpse into a work-less world, with its wealthy and unemployed population (classified as NEETs – Not in Education, Employment, or Training) leading the way.
Describing his film as idea-driven, Gandini seeks to challenge the entrenched ideology of work and envision a different future that aligns with technological advancements. Although he relies on existing concepts and avoids speculative storytelling, After Work aims to present a psychological profile rather than a prophecy.
The film acknowledges the potential existential crisis and identity struggles that may arise as AI reshapes our lives. Instead of focusing on universal basic income experiments, Gandini turns to Italy's rich and purpose-driven citizens for inspiration. His goal is not to provide a definitive solution but to contribute to a broader discussion about the impending transition to a new world order.
Aesthetically, After Work is designed for the big screen, combining expansive steady cam shots with talking head interviews. Gandini employs the Errol Morris eye-direct technique, featuring audio commentary by Noam Chomsky and clips from speakers like Yuval Noah Harari. Teaming up with Triangle of Sadness cinematographer Fredrik Wenzel, Gandini utilizes the cinemascope format to ensure a captivating cinematic experience.
After Work highlights the rapidly changing landscape and the significant shifts awaiting us. However, the visually stunning documentary offers an optimistic outlook on humanity's future, avoiding bleak prophecies. Gandini's message is clear: our attitude towards work must be reevaluated, and preparing for a new era begins with a shift in each individual's mindset.