Monday 26 January 2015

The Working Class Goes to Heaven [1971]

The 2nd chapter in Elio Petri’s ‘Trilogy of Neurosis following the excellent Investigation of a Citizen above Suspicion, The Working Class Goes to Heaven was a highly divisive film on account of its untempered, cynical and downbeat commentary on workers’ conditions. On one front it garnered appreciations for its temerity and radical stance, while on the other it earned the wrath of some for its blistering agitprop filmmaking and its savage portrayal of all concerned – not just the high-handedness of the authority, but also self-centeredness among the unionists, short-sightedness within the labour class and their perpetual friction with activists. Lulu (Gian Maria Volonté), the best worker in the plant, is hated by his colleagues because of his high productivity; he’s oblivious to the discomfiture he’s causing to those who can’t match his standards and basks in the bonuses that he earns through his machine-like dedication. However, while recuperating from an accident, he experiences a dramatic shift in his political consciousness, and by the time he rejoins work, he has become the single-most vocal and alienated employee. His potency, or lack thereof, reflected through his volatile relationship with his unsatisfied wife, provided the perfect allegory for the film’s point of view, while his delicate liaison with the vociferous agitators outside the plant added to its caustic perspectives. The characters were always hollering which made for a jarring experience, while the film’s propagandist nature was too obvious, but the tar-black depiction of the uneasy troika of management, unionists and activists, within which the regular blue collar workers are stuck, made for incendiary viewing. The grimy and gloomy workers’ condition was also aptly captured.

Director: Elio Petri
Genre: Black Comedy/Political Satire
Language: Italian
Country: Italy

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