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Mexiko/Deutschland 2013 - with Jesús Padilla, Susana Salazar, Bárbara Perrín Rivemar, Sergio Limón ...

The Frankfurt-Tipp rating:

Movie info

Original title:Workers
Direction:José Luis Valle
Cinema release:12.12.2013
Production country:Mexiko/Deutschland 2013
Running time:Approx. 122 min.
Rated:Age 6+

For thirty years now, Rafael (Jesús Padilla) has been cleaning at a light bulb factory in the Mexican border city of Tijuana. Now he is convinced that he deserves to retire. Full of anticipation, he prepares for his last day of work, only to be told by his supervisor that he is not eligible for a pension. Since Rafael, a native of El Salvador, is living illegally in Mexico, he must work for the rest of his life. He accepts this bad news with seemingly stoic composure. But Rafael finds a way to get revenge on his exploitative employer.

Also Lidia (Susana Salazar) lives in Tijuana and has worked there for three decades as a domestic servant to a heavily wealthy elderly lady. Day and night, Lidia is there for the ailing woman, hoping that her sacrifice will eventually pay off. But when her employer dies, her beloved greyhound Princess inherits the entire fortune. Only when the dog dies of natural causes does the money go to the employees. And so Lidia must continue to work - and for a dog.

In his directorial debut, Workers, Mexican director José Luis Valle explores the theme of wage labor in two side-by-side storylines. That the protagonists share a common past, however, is only hinted at. Otherwise, the two stories have only their underlying theme in common. Both are simple workers who are not physically tormented by their superiors. But they are trapped in a system that is so demanding of them that their will and autonomy is to be broken. They are simply supposed to be obedient work drones for the rest of their lives, who do not rebel and who have nothing worth rebelling against their employers for. They're trapped in a dreary daily grind that they simply can't break out of because of their social status.

To convey this, Valle uses two things in particular: engaging imagery and stoic calm. While the former really does bring quite magnificent, artful moments to the screen, the latter makes the film an extremely unwieldy challenge to the viewer's patience. The scene that lasts several minutes, for instance, showing the hustle and bustle of a street, is kind of fascinating because of the way Valle stages here how life shifts more and more inside the houses as the day wanes. But just being convincing on an artistic level is simply not enough. It also needs a dramaturgically rousing level and that is simply missing in this film over too long stretches.

It thus gives the impression that the actual story could easily have been told in a short film. Stretching the whole thing to over two hours just doesn't want to work. Purely in terms of craftsmanship, this is beyond reproach and the imagery is truly beautiful to behold. But what's the use if the entertainment value is minimized by the sheer endless shots? And for all its pretensions, a film should also offer a certain amount of entertainment in order to reach more than just a very small niche audience. Somewhere in Workers are two stories with a lot of potential. Potential for effective social criticism, but also for wicked humor and genuine emotion. But Valle has set his artistic ambitions so high that these interesting and exciting approaches are almost completely buried underneath. In this way, his film will be able to enthuse at festivals and in the feuilleton. In the normal cinema business, however, Workers will have a damn hard time. Therefore: only for demanding arthouse lovers, who place more value on visual aesthetics, than on dramaturgy, worth seeing!

An article by Frankfurt-Tipp


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Cinema trailer for the movie "Workers (Mexiko/Deutschland 2013)"
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