A Bonus For Irene is a short film set in a factory in West Germany in 1971. The drama focuses on Irene, a divorced, single mother working in a dishwasher appliance factory. She is pissed off.
The factory is roasting, the wages are shit, and they call upon them for overtime like they should just be grateful to work. Irene doesn’t miss ye and hit the wall, she tells the bosses exactly what she thinks of the situation. For her tongue, she loses her bonus.
She goes home to her flat, and her neighbours complain of the noise her weans are making through the paper-thin walls. She gives them a right dressing down in the close, and encourages them all to demand the landlord put in proper soundproofing. Needless to say, her rent goes up.
She goes out for a walk one night, and as she sees a group of men up ahead, she gets out her keys. Ah! What race memory is that tells all women to put their keys between their knuckles? How many times have I done this, that this woman, closer to my grandmother’s age, in a entirely different country, knows to do it too?
When she stops by a bar for a drink after work on her own, and she rejects a man’s offer to buy one for her, she’s called a hard-nosed bitch. It’s depressing how identifiable this experience is 50 years on. She chucks her pint in the guy’s face and storms out.
For all the grainy footage, and stilted dialogue that’s very much of its time, the actual story of A Bonus For Irene is one clearly recognisable to working women today. The sense of frustration that she can work all day making dishwashers, and never afford to buy one. The sense of constantly snapping at people who are more or less in the same situation as you, while finding it difficult to reach those you want to hold accountable. The urge to turn rallying cries into tangible and effective action, but being at a loss at where to start.
Set up as a kitchen-sink drama, but speaks to universal and timeless issues.