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Exam

September 19, 2015

ExThe first full-length feature from an emerging writer-director offers an apprentice-goes-to-hell plot. Eight talented job-seekers from various backgrounds battle it out in a windowless room for a key post with a global corporation.

As an armed guard keeps watch, the applicants are given 80 minutes to answer one simple question. They mustn’t speak to the invigilator or guard, spoil their papers – or leave the room. So they turn over their question papers. But they’re blank.

There begins an impossible journey. Just how do you give an answer when you don’t even know the question? Be warned. You will never look at job application processes in the same light again.

Themes: Competition, workplace culture and ethics, ambition

Exam draws the spotlight on the world of work. Survival of the fittest plays out before our eyes.

While Exam is filmed almost entirely in the one room, this claustrophobic culture begs the question, what about all the people on the outside? Are their destinies to be determined forever by a handful of ‘experts’ tucked away in a remote room?

The working wounded are in the driving seat. Exam reminds us imperfect people queue up for key posts in leading corporations. So who is watching them? If huge organisations are accountable to a handful of people at the top, to whom are those people accountable?

It’s not about the answer,’ says one of the key characters, ‘it’s about the question.’ It’s tempting to offer answers without bothering to find out the questions. ‘What is the question?’ asks another candidate. In Exam, the blank question paper may represent the mystery of life. How do we assist people in finding the questions?

‘Lying is not against the rules, is it?’ asks an applicant. In today’s postmodern culture, everyone can have their own valid perspective on the nature of the universe.

We never had cause to trust each other in the first place,’ is another comment from one candidate, forced to co-operate to find the question. This signals the breakdown of trust between ordinary people.

There is a key moment to consider – at the beginning, where the invigilator says, ‘Through your trials you have gained some idea of the power of this organisation, so believe me when I tell you that there is no law in this place but our law. And the only rules in here are our rules’.

Brunette: I want this. I do. I want it.
Black: [grasping his pendant cross] I can do all things. *All* things.
Invigilator: The test is simple in comparison, yet it will determine who leaves this room with a contract of employment, and who leaves with bus fare home.
Invigilator: There is one question before you, and one answer is required. If you try to communicate with myself or the guard, you will be disqualified. If you spoil your paper, intentionally or accidentally, you will be disqualified. If you choose to leave this room for any reason, you will be disqualified.
Invigilator: Any questions?
Black: All each of us can do today is lose what we’ve already won through selfishness, stupidity, and impatience!
[last lines] Blonde: Let’s get started.

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