Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle HuilletItaly / France123 minutes2000ColourItalian
Perhaps the most utopian of Straub-Huillet's works, Workers, Peasants presents amateur actors declaiming texts from Elio Vittorini's Women of Messina, which movingly recounts the rebuilding of a village after the devastation of World War II.
If spoken language ever approached the condition of choral polyphony, it is in the rapturous Workers, Peasants, perhaps the most utopian of Straub-Huillet's works. Amateur actors from a theatre troupe in Buti, Italy (many of them operai and contadini) declaim texts from Elio Vittorini's Women of Messina, which movingly recounts the rebuilding of a village after the devastation of World War II, its inhabitants forming a new social order to accomplish the impossible. "I was riveted by the extraordinary way their deliveries were directed and orchestrated as well as by the beautiful ways that the characters were framed and filmed (most often from slightly low angles) and that their voices were recorded in relation to the natural setting. What they were saying wasn't esoteric — how to make risotto was one of the topics — and the film qualifies as heroic portraiture because it's concerned more with who and where its human subjects are than with what they do as characters" (Jonathan Rosenbaum).