Die ArbeiterInnen verlassen die Fabrik | workers leaving the factory (again)



Die ArbeiterInnen verlassen die Fabrik [workers leaving the factory (again)] was shot in the Austria Tabak Works which have been closed since 2009. It picks up on the first film in history by the Lumière brothers from 1895. It  In the original film it is mainly women workers streaming out of the factory. However, in the German translation of the film title their presence was not taken into account. Moreover, in many avantgarde film adaptations the women protagonists have been lost. The german title of Katharina Gruzei ́s film incorporates the current discourse in German language and indicates that we are dealing with both – male and female workers. Whereas the english title refers to the repitition and reenactment in adaptations of the historical film.


In addition, the subject matter of the film is the transformation of work per se and the increasing number of vacant industrial spaces which is often caused by the migration of industries to countries with cheap labour. While the Lumière version was made at the time when industrialisation was at its peak, the adaptation spans a thematic bridge that reaches into a present in which there is an accelerating decline of industry and productive commerce. This timeline also conveys just how closely film and industrial history are connected. The gradual petering out of analogue film production has been accompanied by the disappearance of industrial work in Central Europe.


The film avoids both idealisation of industrial work and the depiction of work processes. The conditions of work are dealt with in the departure from the factory buildings and the impact they have. At various points irregularly flickering neon tubes light up empty factory spaces in short bursts.The former production line flashes into being as if it was an endless factory corridor.The curvature of the factory building amplifies this impression and the experience of space is further extended by the editing which elongates the room even more by the montage of sequential takes. The soundtrack is a composition woven together from the sound of the light fixtures and recordings of the empty factory.


The tracking shot begins, the workers stream into the picture. They are visible from behind, the camera moving along with them as part of the crowd. The alternation between light and darkness lets the viewer take part in the event and architecture only to be dropped back into the darkness, disoriented, a moment later. The end of the “corridor” is finally reached. The workers have formed a group there and look straight at the camera (and the audience). The sound slowly becomes quieter until there are only the dying echoes of the sound of the neon tubes. The film ends in silence with a shot which is a direct quotation of the first film “La sortie des Usines Lumière à Lyon”. The workers leave the factory and its curtains for it too.


Katharina Gruzei

all rights reserved © Katharina Gruzei