Saturday, January 11, 2014

WORKINGMAN'S DEATH (2005)

I was so impressed last week with Michael Glawogger's WHORES' GLORY that I looked up his other stuff.  The only thing that I found available was this 2005 documentary about the lengths that humans go to to earn an honest day's living.  Like WG, WD doesn't feature a narrator or any kind of voice over.  It simply lets the pictures on the screen and occasionally the workers themselves tell the story.

The first place is in the Ukraine where some men illegally harvest coal out an old abandoned mine.  The thing that shocked me the most was this is a "mousetrap" style mine where the miners literally crawl into a narrow slit and then continue crawling over to the mining surface and begin digging while still laying down!  They even take their breaks laying down!  I have no idea where they go to the restroom at.  If you are claustrophobic then entire part of the movie will look like Hell on Earth.  Despite their terrible working conditions the miners actually seem to be in good spirits.  The saddest part was they seemed to actually want real, honest jobs but there simply were none.

Next is are sulfur carriers in Indonesia.  These unfortunate souls carry sometimes hundreds of pounds of raw sulfur chunks in baskets slung over their shoulders up the slope of a volcano(?) and then carry their load what appears to be a very long way.  Why the drop off point was so far away, if it truly was, was never explained.  I can't imagine the life expectancy of these guys could be very long.

The open-air market butchers of Nigeria was by far the hardest to watch and listen to.  People bring their livestock to this muddy, blood covered market where a butcher professionally kills the area.  And by professionally I mean slit their throats.  It's very, very hard to stomach.  As horrible as the visuals were the sounds of the animals crying out their terror-filled final moments was heartbreaking.  I was already petting my cat before this but I gave her a special belly rub to help steel my nerves.  I understand the meaning of the slaughter (and they show you in detail how everything on the body is put to use), but it was still a very difficult watch.  With so many sharp knives and desperate animals about I would imagine people get hurt pretty regularly.

Next is a ship-braking yard in Pakistan.  Out of all of the jobs featured this one looked to be the best.  Yeah, manually chopping up a purposely grounded ship is extremely backbreaking and dangerous work, but at compared to crawling deep into a unregulated hole in the ground I'd take this.  Seeing the massive ship chopped up section by section was fascinating.  I imagine a lot of people working here later die of respiratory problems.

Last is a very short look inside a steel mill in China.  I've seen this kind of work on "Dirty Jobs", so it didn't really hurt my feelings that this section was so short.  At only a few minutes long, it felt like it was just tacked on to pad the running time.

The cinematography is very good, but overall I enjoyed WHORES' GLORY much more.  That film felt more polished and professional than WORKINGMAN'S DEATH.  That's not to say it not a powerful film, because it is, but I just liked WG better.  If nothing else WORKINGMAN'S DEATH will make you thankful for what you have.  Recommended.