Dust (2007)

"Very Good"

Dust (2007) Review


There has been Lust in the Dust, Eat My Dust, Ask the Dust, Dust Be My Destiny, Daughters of the Dust, and Blossoms in the Dust, to name just a few films down through the ages with "dust" in the title. But now, thanks to German documentarian Hartmut Bitomsky, there is the ultimate "dust" movie, the aptly titled Dust.

Dust is the definitive film on an elusive subject: dust. At first glance, this might appear an elaborate joke, but Bitomsky, with rigorous concentration, zeros in on dust and breaks those elusive dust particles down into cinematic set pieces examining what dust actually is, how dust is symbolically swept under the rug of mankind, the harm dust incurs to human beings, and how dust becomes a glance towards the infinite.

One of the opening images of the film is a hand brushing off a film projector as the narrator intones "Dust is the smallest object a film can deal with." With dust particles being 0.1 millimeter across, we discover that dust is the threshold above which the world becomes visible. When he comments on the dust particles that sparkle before a projector's beam in a darkened theater, Bitomsky immediately links dust (probably the most uncinematic object in creation) to the cinematic.

Bitomsky then branches out from the threshold of the invisible to the very visible. There are stately shots of women cleaning offices and dusting the floors of art galleries, a team of men cleaning a bathroom, a group of workers cleaning out asbestos, and an obsessive-compulsive housewife whose aim in life is to futilely remove dust from her house -- "I throw things out if I can't get them clean anymore." Dust travels to abandoned factories, rock quarries, and coal mining slag dumps and savors the dust clouds that settle over the landscape. Bitomsky interviews dust collectors -- from artists who use dust to create artwork to scientists who collect dust and break the particles down in elaborate machines.

But Bitomsky has the most fun in filming corporate flunkies demonstrating their products, products like paint, air filters, and an air-washing filter machine. Bitomsky trains his camera on them like subjects from a 1970s German documentary short, as they compulsively but passionlessly explain their wares. Even Bitomsky sometimes can't resist panning away from his subjects to take in the stale air.

Bitomsky rigorously controls his images as if it were Stanley Kubrick who was making dust documentaries. There is no off-camera space and the airlessness of the compositions become stifling, which is the point. Before the dust settles, Bitomsky wants to rub our noses in it.

All the more reason why the final part of the film becomes surprisingly spiritual. Bitomsky, in exploring the removal of paint powder in a paint factory, points of that no matter how much you try to clean up the dust a trace is always left behind. Sometimes left behind in a harmful way causing cancer and heart and lung ailments (the DV Penetrator machine is also explored, which examines depleted uranium dust and how that dust causes deformities in human beings). He then takes the leap into outer space and looks at dust from a comet, concluding that the eternal being is all around us in the dust.

In the end, Bitomsky equates dust with life and death and the infinite -- dust and man, as Carl Sagan would say, "We are all star stuff." Fittingly, Bitomsky ends the film, heading back to earth from the ultimate trip, with grainy and blurry clips from John Ford's Wagonmaster as the Sons of the Pioneers sing "Rollin' Dust." Where else can you go after prodding the infinite but back to John Ford?

Dust is a cool meditation that is at once clinical and reverential on those elusive particles of grime that cover us all.

Aka Staub.

All we are is that stuff in the wind.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Hartmut Bitomsky

Producer: Heino Deckert

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