« We accept that things can begin before us, not that can survive us. »
The many objects that we accumulate begin their production journey in a programmed and silent industrial site where borderline men work in isolation, without any interference. Unbeknownst to them, these men form the basis of the sequence of creation, transportation, commercialization and destruction of objects.
Beautiful Things, by Giorgio Ferrero and Federico Biasin, is a hybrid documentary, structured in four parts: Petroleum, Cargo, Measure and Ash. Each act concerns a worker in a separate, isolated environment: a maintenance worker on Texas oil rigs; a Filipino in the heart of a supertanker; an Italian scientist in his room without echo (blocking the sounds of the world); and finally, a worker at a waste treatment plant. Creation, transport, marketing and destruction – it’s a global consumer chain.
Welcome to a symphonic journey through our obsessive consumption.
4 parts, 4 steps, 4 men
Van, Danilo, Andrea and Vito are monks inside temples of steel and concrete. They repeat the same liturgy every day. In a way, we do not even know they exist. Van, Danilo, Andrea and Vito can, for the first time, meet and look at each other virtually in front of the audience to whom they have dedicated a lifetime of work.
Son of an Italian immigrant, Van is a floorhand, the maintenance man on an oil platform. He works in the desert, in a big oil field in Texas. It is, in a way, the base of the chain. He is at the source of all this overconsumption. He explains, himself, how much oil is in everything.
This segment offers breathtaking landscapes. But, above all, it is the arrangement with the music, the choppy editing and the movements of the man and the machines which creates a beauty. The portrait that the directors offer us is the image of a single man who has, in a way, chosen exile.
Chief engineer of a freighter, Danilo spends all his days in the heart of the ship, where resides a gigantic engine. He lives well with loneliness. But he wonders how long this lifestyle will suit him.
But this marine loneliness comes at a price. No children, no lover and no real hobbies. But between two trips, like all sailors (his words), the use of a prostitute allows a little moment of reverie.
Being a scientist, Andrea has lived all his life between mathematical formulas and the silence of the anechoic chamber. Of the 4 characters, he is probably the one who exists the least in the collective imagination. In any case, I did not know that the sounds of toys were tested in a special room where there is no echo, or external sounds that can penetrate.
When looking at him, the question that comes to me is: has he chosen loneliness, or if it is the loneliness that has chosen him?
After spending half of his life dealing with slot machines, Vito now manages a huge pit of reinforced concrete waste. His work? Destroy those objects that are no longer useful, or desired.
This is, for me, the strongest segment. In addition to images that are breathtaking by their colors and heavy atmosphere, it is at this time that we understand the full extent of our way of life.
Vertov and Reggio
While watching Beautiful Things, I cannot help but see a similarity with two great movies that have marked me. Two films separated by nearly 100 years. Dziga Vertov ‘s The man with the camera, and Godfrey Reggio’s Visitors.
Vertov for jerky editing and close-ups of objects that collide. Reggio for the photographic side and the orchestration, the union between images and music.
But Beautiful Things is mostly a beautiful movie. The testimonies are striking. Whether we are in agreement or not with the men who tell their stories, we cannot help but be touched by their vision, their loneliness and their abandonment in the preservation of our race.
Unbeknownst to them, these men form the basis of the entire sequence of creation, transportation, marketing and destruction of the objects that fuel our bulimic lifestyle. These objects, that we think we need every day, begin and end their journey in isolated and disturbing industrial and scientific places. These men are monks in temples of steel and concrete and perform the same mechanical rituals every day in silence and solitude, sharing the space with their own ghosts.
Moreover, the directors dedicate this film “to ourselves who could not live a life without collecting useless objects, to ourselves, bulimic of plastics and noises frightened by silence. It is dedicated to ourselves, who fall asleep with Netflix to our ears and hope that this night falls without notice, to us, who accept the idea that things can come before us, but that objects cannot survive us. “
In a way, despite its title and beauty, Beautiful Things is a sad movie.
The film is made with a musical approach, like a score where notes and images are designed together. Words, music, sounds are part of the same language and carry a single symphonic narrative.
Two other characters appear in this movie. They do not have a name. They are She and He. They are a very ordinary couple. They spent their lives accumulating things until saturation. They grew up in the prosperous years of commercial television and are the first generation to be released via the Internet. Today, they are in their forties and looking for a way out. We discover them at the beginning of each act. The very small slice of everyday life is the photograph of our life, our house, our terrace, our objects, our melancholy.
She and He are us. And unfortunately, we have never heard of them…
Beautiful Things is presented as part of the RIDM on November 16 and 17, 2018.
You can watch the trailer: