Amateur actors from the regional Buti theater, many of them ordinary laborers and farmers, recite passages from a novella which centers on a group of workers who rebuild their lives in the the aftermath of the Second World War.
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Vittorini's WOMEN OF MESSINA--which Straub-Huillet's extremely lovely WORKERS, PEASANT adapts--enshrines a laudable communard experiment forged in the aftermath of seismic civilizational calamity. The 21st century has witnesses the intensification of a post-Fordist neoliberal nightmare. Our recourse? I note especially the passage extolling the value of the laurel, both a matter of aesthetics & ease of cultivation.
Was the invisible commandment of this film, enforced by a comparably invisible death squad (shooting camerifle) that had actors dared sneak anything personal into acting, they’d be hit on the spot? Is this a socialist realism type of play reduced to its bare-bones theoretical skeleton, where actors are types, umbrella terms, polyphonic voices channeled to speak through a single mouth? Is this about a confederacy that
While the workers'/peasants' narratives contain much to admire in terms of the care with which details of physical surroundings, animals, houses and milieu recreate memory's compensation for 'temps perdu', one can discern a certain cinematic fatigue in the specific project; thus, one could only speculate the impact this would have, had it been filmed in Brechtean tableaux. Nonetheless, it is absorbing and chthonic.
Admittedly a struggle. Conceptually I admire it very much - the reduced delivery, the attention to the quotidian work of the peasants. Things that I can point to enjoying elsewhere. The setting is gorgeous, the framing perfect. However the tone of delivery rendered it very hard for me to keep engaged, to follow a narrative where characters aren't always clearly stipulated. I think this speaks more of my weakness
"Workers, Peasants" is Straub/Huillet's laziest effort that I have seen. The message is exactly what you'd normally expect from Straub and Huillet, take it or leave it; the presentation, however, is plagued with poor directors' work with actors (who would have had lots of potential otherwise), the unnecessary mannerism and lack of creativity. Some might say, it's avantgarde. I would say, it's couldn't-care-lessness.
Huillet & Straub go down in the woods to film their very amateur actors reading Elio Vittorini aloud. Fans of their work will know what to expect. The only novelty is in having an outdoor shoot where you never see the sky in frame until the very end. The only let-up an occasional pivot to take in the cast and some foliage. Artistically worthless. People only like them for their politics. Read the book instead