Our Daily Bread

"Excellent"

Our Daily Bread Review


Undoubtedly a forerunner for American Vegan, Veg News, and PETA's best film of the year award, Nikolaus Geyrhalter's Our Daily Bread has a radical premise with a bounty of peculiar connotations to it.

Starting in 2003, Geyrhalter spent a solid two years filming various harvesting spaces and meat plants, often creating still compositions of plant workers at their daily grind. The film has no real structuring decoy nor does it boast any interviews; the entire film is a succession of these ascetic workspaces alive with the rather dispassionate work of a modern laborer of the food industry.

What might sound sanitizing and horrendously tiresome actually turns out to be a galvanic and striking work of imagery over context. Geyrhalter doesn't just go into the horrors of how the pigs, cows, and chickens are slowly prepared for slaughter; equal time is given to tomato, apple, and lettuce farmers, along with a mystical set of shots from a work day in a sugar factory. All the plants are located in Europe, which might be why Geyrhalter was given such unprecedented access to the plants.

The near-silence from most of the workers gives more room for the churning sound of machinery and animal movements, polarizing the viewer from the human element of the process. When we do see the workers, it is often on a break, slowly masticating on a sandwich or gently talking with family. Where Richard Linklater's recent translation of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation struggled to fit the industry and its societal impacts into a humane construct, Our Daily Bread seems more at-home with the direct approach. With the absence of narration or of any real contact with the subjects, the audience is handed the task of understanding the industry simply as it is, although its ideological drift can be determined without much thought.

Through watching the pigs, chickens, and cows being born, tagged, and eventually killed and chopped up, the presentation of life ending in rather blunt, brutal ways is up front. This doesn't turn the film into a pro-vegan propaganda march, however; in fact, the film seems much more interested in the way that the animals are brought up. There's symmetry to slowly showing how these animals are born into a life that is merely a preparation of death that can only be described as spellbinding. Equally transfixing are the shots of these hollowed, open rooms that give off a sort of futuristic sheen of automaton life. A long shot of a crop-dusting facility at night, radiating a red-orange glow, gives off an intoxicating aura.

Pumped full of God-knows-what and hooked up to whirling, clanking machinery that would look more at home in a Gilliam movie, the calm of the mulling pre-carcasses of the pigs has a strange poetry to it. The cows are another story: One of the cows accepts the worker's small bolt shot to the head while the other shakes and moves until he finally accepts his fate. If anything, Our Daily Bread seems to be stunned by the alienation that the workers, settings and, indeed, the products exist in. That's not to stay that scenes of cow and pig guts being spilled out are not also effective. Yeah, I think I'll have the salad, waiter.

Aka Unser täglich Brot.



Our Daily Bread

Facts and Figures

Run time: 92 mins

In Theaters: Friday 21st April 2006

Distributed by: Vineyard Distribution

Production compaines: Filmless Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Fresh: 32 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Nikolaus Geyrhalter

Producer: Nikolaus Geyrhalter

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