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A mine worker refuses to accept the fast and explosive changes that have befallen his community - quiet and meditative German drama premieres at the 40th Munich Film Fest

QUICK AND DIRTY: LIVE FROM MUNICH

The landscape where Micha (Markus Hering) has worked in the past 40 years is about to change dramatically, both literally and figuratively. The 60-something-year-old works in an open-pit mine in an undisclosed location of Germany. The gigantic excavator is about to be blown up and the entire site shut down, giving room to a massive lake and leisure facilities. One of his co-workers, a man called Kostja, has committed suicide, and Micha suspects that the tragedy is linked to their impending redundancy. So he decides to take matters into his own hands in order to avert the seemingly inevitable destruction of his work place (and potentially of his entire life).

This setting is vast and arid. The excavator looks ancient. They are both a far cry from the plush landscape and the cutting-edge technology normally associated with Germany. Miners are presumably in decline in the Teutonic nation, in a way similar to the coal miners of Britain (who have all but disappeared). Micha desperately clings to this bleak and soulless world, the only one that he has ever known. Some of his co-workers are less attached to the obsolete lifestyle, instead seeking pastures green. Micha becomes infuriated at their perceived lack of loyalty. He also scorns those who dare to suggest that Kostja’s tragic passing had nothing to do with the workplace closure. Tensions surface during his funeral, in what’s probably the film’s most powerful scene.

It isn’t just at work that Micha faces an uphill struggle against modernisation. His daughter Anja refuses his doting ways, instead vouching for her independence. He insists that she stays at home, emphasising that “the doors are open at any time”. But Anja wants to change. She joins an environmentally-conscious commune that uses draconian measures (such as locking and gluing themselves to buildings) in order to protest against destructive corporate practices. Because they are too focused on their differences, father and daughter fail realise that they have one objective in common: they both wish to deter progress (if for very different reasons). Ironically, it is his daughter that provides Micha with inspiration for his final coup de maitre.

His relationship to his wife is also fraught. Her allegiance is divided between her husband and her only child, and she does not approve of his efforts to sabotage Toni’s lifestyle choice.. She is in charge of Anja’s only son Toni, the couple’s only grandchild. Toni is the connecting force between all family members. Their most reliable anchor.

The film title refers to the mining activities (they often unearth materials that are millions of years old), but also to our protagonist’s frantic efforts to fossilise his job and his family life. He wishes everything would stay the same – at home and at work – for a million years, and remains mostly oblivious to the overpowering winds of change that blow in every direction. This slow-paced and bleak drama provides insight into a dying activity, and the repercussions of its demise. The camerawork is quiet, almost static. The colours are lifeless and barren. This is not a movie about hope, but instead a story of slow and gradual death.

Fossil just premiered at the 40th edition of the Munich Film Festival as part of the New German Cinema section. Unlikely to travel far beyond German territory.


By Victor Fraga - 24-06-2023

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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