611. The Club of the Laid Off – Jiri Barta

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SUMMARY: A group of old, discarded mannequins inhabit a dusty old warehouse in which they attempt to live a life akin to human routine. But trouble arises with the arrival of a new, younger group of mannequins.

WHY IT’S HERE: Jiri Barta’s superb ‘The Club of the Laid Off’ creates a vivid alternative world in its 24 minutes. Barta’s film is set in a dusty old warehouse which contains a group of old mannequins. Cracked and broken, the mannequins have been discarded and now attempt to live their days in an eerie approximation of human routine. Barta replays this routine a couple of times to highlight the monotony and the seemingly arbitrary importance that the mannequins adhere to this way of life. This importance is so high that, when a new box of discarded but younger mannequins arrives, violence erupts over the conflict between the new way and the old way. ‘The Club of the Laid Off’ is so brilliantly made and engaging that it can be enjoyed as a simple story but there are clearly layers of symbolism here. The film could be seen as a comment on shifting generations, ageism and the conflict between modern and archaic lifestyles but given that Barta is Czech, the film is clearly heavily influenced by the change Czechoslovakia underwent during the 80s from a socialist to consumer capitalist nation. This is highlighted in the final images of the film, as television becomes a new and dominant part of the mannequins’ lives.

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