HARDLY WORKING is a film essay on the question of work in the digital age. It makes use of the mainstream video game Red Dead Redemption 2, one of the most successful Western action games in video game history. By observing the scenery, the film humorously reflects on the question of work and the construction of normality in the era of late stage capitalism.
The starting point for HARDLY WORKING was a kind of work ethnography, in which we carefully observed, recorded and discussed the routines and the everyday working life of the NPCs – Non-Playable Characters – in the game. NPCs are the multitude of animated characters, who populate architectures, cities and worlds and simulate liveliness. Their rhythm of life is structured by looped activities, which they exercise tirelessly and repetitively to infinity.
NPCs perform "bullshit jobs" in the narrowest sense: busy work that produces no social benefit and yet is performed obligatorily, symbolising the maintenance of a social order based on the merit principle.
HARDLY WORKING is about the NPC as "Animal laborans" (Hannah Arendt), as a working individual, whose work does not change the status quo, but in fact strengthens it. In the figure of the NPC, the image of the subject trapped in the work process is even exaggerated as no function is provided to ever complete the work. Activities such as sweeping a floor or sinking nails into wood become an endless and inconclusive performance. NPCs are Sisyphean machines, programmed to get stuck in the routines of everyday life without results. Whenever their algorithm shows inconsistencies, the NPCs break out of the logic of total normality, display their own flawedness – and seem touchingly human in the process.
Cast & Crew
Directed by: Susanna Flock, Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner, Michael Stumpf
Written by: Susanna Flock, Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner, Michael Stumpf
Produced by: Susanna Flock, Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner, Michael Stumpf
Cinematography: Susanna Flock, Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner, Michael Stumpf
Editing: Susanna Flock, Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner, Michael Stumpf
Original Score: Adrian Haim
Sound: Bernhard Zorzi
Nominations and Awards
- Short Film Candidates 2023