Even though this German/French production is loosely based on the famous 1906 Courrieres mine disaster in which 1,099 miners died, the film also reminded me a lot of Emile Zola's masterpiece "Germinal" which I've read countless times. I cannot recommend that novel enough. It changed my life.
The large mine in this film is divided by the border of Germany and France. They even have a brick wall underneath to mark the divide. Early one morning there's a massive explosion on the French side and an unknown number of miners are trapped or dying down in the rubble. After hearing this news the German miners ignore all political and national differences and race across the border to help their fallen brothers. Some of the miners that are already in the pit on the German side break through the border wall to go help with the rescue efforts.
The peace and love message of the film might be overly simplistic, but the technical aspect of this early sound film is very impressive. Especially the realism of the explosion and the misery the survivors went through. I don't know how Pabst managed to get such realistic footage, but I would love to find out. Criterion should release a remastered Blu-Ray with an special feature on how this film was made. Was this movie all filmed on sets or did they actually film it in a mine?
If you can find a copy I recommended it, but still this film pales in comparison to Claude Berri's 1993 adaptation of "Germinal" which I cannot find on DVD to save my fucking dick from falling off.