×

Our Daily Bread

Stripped of voiceover, interviews or obvious editorial stance, questing helmer Nikolaus Geyrhalter's evocative docu "Our Daily Bread" looks at the agricultural industry across Europe through sound and images alone. Pic offers a <I>tabula rasa</I> in which some auds will see a horrifying indictment of the industry's cruelties, others a realistic depiction of mechanized farming, and some a soft-spoken tribute to manual labor.

Stripped of voiceover, interviews or obvious editorial stance, questing helmer Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s evocative docu “Our Daily Bread” looks at the agricultural industry across Europe through sound and images alone. Pic offers a tabula rasa in which some auds will see a horrifying indictment of the industry’s cruelties, others a realistic depiction of mechanized farming, and some a soft-spoken tribute to manual labor. Meanwhile, precisely composed lensing and painstaking sound design create moments of sublime beauty, even when showing the production line slaughter of animals. “Bread” should make rich food for thought at further fests before being digested by upmarket TV stations.

Composed of images of unnamed workers and anonymous places from across the continent, “Bread” never lets viewers know quite where they are, in marked contrast to Geyrhalter’s previous pics, such as “Elsewhere” and “Pripyat,” in which locals’ stories and insights build up portraits of specific locales.

Popular on Variety

Strategy here is deliberately fashioned to emphasize the impersonal nature of contempo farming, turning workers into cogs in vast, semi-organic machines.

Nevertheless, almost every sequence showing a different agricultural process tends to end with shots of the laborers having a meal or beverage break — moments that underscore humanity of the folk shown and the fact that all this is ultimately about creating sustenance.

Although images visually rhyme with each other, and some sense of climax and closure is achieved by the end, there’s no particular narrative as such. Particular shots and scenes linger in isolation in the memory afterward, for instance, of a mechanical arm that shakes all the olives from a tree in seconds, huge hangar-like spaces lined with shelves full of battery hens or rows and rows of tomato plants receding to a vanishing point in the distance, or the sight of a cow caught in a holding contraption who in its panic tries to avoid the fatal bolt to its head as its dead herdmates trail away into the distance on a conveyor belt.

Although Georges Franju’s harrowing 1949 docu short on slaughterhouses, “Blood of the Beasts,” reps one obvious touchstone here, this is not an infomercial for vegetarianism. Geyrhalter lets auds draw their own conclusions.

According to the pic’s press notes, agricultural companies that allowed filming on their premises were happy to give viewers a glimpse of their punctiliously sterile workplaces and the sophisticated mechanical kit used to make food. The intrinsic majesty of the landscapes, however estranged they may be from their natural state, compels consistently.

Long held, wide-angle shots, limpidly lensed on HDcam by Geyrhalter himself, are often taken from the prow of tractors or cranes and are used to create an eerie, machine-eye traveling view of fields and spaces. The static shots, almost always long or medium shots, have a more painterly quality, particularly the portrait shots of workers at rest, their off-center composition and use of light sometimes recalling Vermeer paintings.

Likewise, sound is used sparingly, noises from other scenes laid over different sequences to create a faintly disturbing alienation effect. Rest of the tech package is impeccable.

Our Daily Bread

Austria

Production: A Nikolaus Geyrhalter Filmproduktion GmbH production, made with the support of Film Fonds Wien, ORF, the Austrian Film Institute, 3SAT, ZDF. (International sales: Autlook, Vienna.) Produced by Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Markus Glaser, Michael Kitzberger, Wolfgang Widerhofer. Directed by Nikolaus Geyrhalter. Dramatic structure, Wolfgang Widerhofer.

Crew: Camera (color, HDCam-to-35mm), Geyrhalter; editor, Widerhofer; sound (Dolby Digital), Stefan Holzer, Andreas Hamza, Hjalti Bager-Jonathansson, Ludwig Löckinger, Heimo Korak, Nicole Scherg; sound designer, Andreas Hamza. Reviewed at Intl. Documentary Festival Amsterdam (Joris Ivens competition), Nov. 11, 2005. Running time: 92 MIN. (German, Arabic dialogue)

More Film

  • Nardjes A.

    ‘Invisible Life’s’ Karim Ainouz Drops Trailer for 'Nardjes A.’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    On Feb. 14 last year, Karim Aïnouz arrived in Algeria to trace via the story of his parents the Algerian Revolution which happened 60 years ago – its 1954-62 War of Independence from France. The uprising he very quickly started to shoot, however, was one happening right then, the Revolution of Smiles, whose first street [...]

  • Call of the Wild

    Harrison Ford in 'The Call of the Wild': Film Review

    Dogs, in their rambunctious domesticated way, can lead us overly civilized humans a step or two closer to the natural world. So it’s only fitting that the best dog movies have saluted that unruly canine spirit without a lot of artificial flavoring. Hollywood’s classic dog tales, like “Old Yeller” (1957) or “Lassie Come Home” (1943), [...]

  • Adventures of a Mathematician

    Indie Sales Unveils Trailer For 'Adventures of a Mathematician' (EXCLUSIVE)

    In the run up to Berlin’s European Film Market, Indie Sales has unveiled the trailer for Thor Klein’s “Adventures of a Mathematician” which had its world premiere in Palm Springs. The film tells the inspiring true story of a Polish-Jewish mathematician who got a fellowship at Harvard and went on to join the prestigious Manhattan [...]

  • Sonic (Ben Schwartz) in SONIC THE

    How Internet Backlash Helped 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Avoid Box Office Disaster

    It’s not a stretch to say Universal’s “Cats” and Paramount’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” had two of the most polarizing movie trailers in recent memory. Both caught fire online for all the wrong reasons after fans on social media torched the questionable CGI. “Cats,” an adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, used a new science called [...]

  • Neumond Berlin Germany Restaurant

    Berlin Offers Diversity in Restaurant Scene

    Berlin Film Festival attendees have a chance to sample the diverse cuisine of a foodie city. Some of the top pics for a pre-film repast: Adana Grillhaus  A hugely popular Turkish restaurant in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, Adana Grillhaus now has a second location right around the corner. Popular on Variety Manteuffelstr. 86 +49 30 6127790 [...]

  • my salinger year

    Berlin Festival's New Selection Committee Takes Off

    Berlin’s new seven-member selection committee — four women and three men — comprises the core of new director Carlo Chatrian’s programming staff, which is led Canadian critic Mark Peranson. Peranson was the Locarno Film Festival’s chief of programming when Chatrian headed that Swiss festival. This year, Berlin is opening with “My Salinger Year,” starring Sigourney [...]

  • Mariette Rissenbeek Berlin Film Festival Executive

    Mariette Rissenbeek Faces Challenges as Berlin Festival Executive Director

    Making her debut as the new executive director of the Berlin Film Festival this year, Mariette Rissenbeek is facing some big challenges after taking over management duties at one of the world’s biggest public film fests. Rissenbeek and new artistic director Carlo Chatrian succeed Dieter Kosslick, who left an indelible mark on the fest after [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content