Veteran Austrian documaker Michael Glawogger's five-part film "Working Man's Death" profiles in poetic style workers toiling at endurance-testing, highly dangerous or simply horrible occupations in five corners of the globe.

Veteran Austrian documaker Michael Glawogger’s five-part film “Working Man’s Death” profiles in poetic style workers toiling at endurance-testing, highly dangerous or simply horrible occupations in five corners of the globe. Pic reps a sequel of sorts to his 12-part “Megacities” about poor folk in separate burgs, and comes soaked in good old-fashioned humanist respect for the dignity of labor, but eventually grows a little monotonous. Although it makes for a sobering reality check for anyone who’s ever complained about his job, pic looks set to toil in festival mines only.

Opening fifth contrasts archive footage about Soviet mining hero Alexei Stakhanov with Ukrainian coal moles today eking out a subsistence living from officially closed mines. Second part travels to Indonesia where stiff-backed workers cart baskets of sulfur through a steamy landscape, dodging visiting tourists. Sickening mid-section unfolds at a Nigerian open-air abattoir. Fourth part meets ship wreckers risking their lives in Pakistan, before ending with steelworkers in mainland China and in an epilogue of German kids necking on a steelworks-turned-leisure park. Wolfgang Thaler’s lensing is appropriate, its effect amplified by John Zorn’s avant-garde score.

Working Man's Death

Austria -Germany

Production

A Lotus Film GmbH, Vienna and Quinte Film (Austria), Frieburg (Germany) production in association with ARTE G.E.I.E, with the support of Austrian Film Institute, Eurimages, Vienna Film Fund, Austrian Broadcasting Corp., MFG Film Funding Baden-Wuerttemberg. (International sales: Paul Thiltges Distributions, Luxembourg.) Produced by Erich Lackner, Mirjam Quinte, Pepe Danquart. Directed, written by Michael Glawogger.

Crew

Camera (color, B&W, Super 16mm-to-35mm), Wolfgang Thaler; editors, Monika Willi, Ilse Buchelt; music, John Zorn. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Horizons), Sept. 2, 2005. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Real to Reel.) Russian dialogue. Running time: 121 MIN.
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