Manufactured Landscapes


The very first image in Manufactured Landscapes is a stately, Sacha Vierny-style tracking shot peering down the long aisles of a massive Chinese manufacturing facility where scores of workers hunch over tables, dutifully assembling little bits of material into larger pieces of whoknowswhat. At first, what’s remarkable about the men and women in the shot is how little attention they pay to the movie camera moving sideways past them. Occasionally someone glances up, or peers over a shoulder, but mostly they seem absorbed in their routines. The camera keeps tracking, taking in aisle after aisle, stacks and stacks of boxes, and gliding past slightly more open spaces where one or two uniformed workers are actually walking around. The seemingly endless spectacle builds up an almost comical intensity — I was suddenly reminded of the traffic jam in Week End and half-expected Mettler’s camera to alight on some heinous act of violence — a supervisor garroted, perhaps, by a finely-tuned machine tool. Instead, the pay-off is nothing less ordinary than an overhead shot depicting the factory’s aisles receding into distance.

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