Review: The Working Class Goes to Heaven
Blu-ray: The Working Class Goes to Heaven (1971)
Conscientious factory worker Ludovico ‘Lulù’ Massa (an intense and hypnotic performance by Gian Maria Volontè ) devotes all of his energy to his monotonous piece work job, where he stands at a lathe all day cutting out pieces of metal.
Blinkered to the factory bosses way of working and a desire to earn as much money for his family as possible, Lulu sustains an almost impossible work rate that the rest of the factory can’t compete with, using the sight of the ‘ass’ of a young female worker in front of him as the momentum and focus for his rapid and rhythmic metal cutting.
This makes Lulu an unpopular member of the team as he goes around the factory setting unrealistic targets for everyone else to meet in order to earn their wage.
His home life is just as turbulent. Too tired to pay any sort of attention to his girlfriend and estranged from his ex- wife and son, Lulu begins to fixate more on the young female worker whose ass keeps him working hard…no pun intended!
Finally taking her virginity while in his car (a scene wonderfully realised by director Elio Petri who mirrors the clumsy fumbling with erratic and sometimes out of focus camera shots), Lulu, now with libido satiated, has little interest in her.
His focus on work though is soon cut short when an accident at the factory leaves him minus a finger, and while he ‘could’ carry on working at his usual pace, a new found mindset has him realising that there is more to life than work, and so his pace begins to slow.
An unsuccessful attempt at abolishing the piece work way of working at the factory leads to a mini-revolt, in which Lulu loses his job and spirals even further out of control. The question is, can Lulu get control back of his life…or even his mind?
Heavy with political and social commentary, this could almost be a fly-on-the-wall documentary, with a myriad of lives intertwining in both harmony and opposition with each other, leading to friendships made, broken, then remade again.
The Working Class Goes to Heaven has moments of levity, but throughout there is a prevailing sense of impending doom as Lulu questions his own mental strength, visiting an ex-factory worker friend at a mental institute and seeing parallels between them in the way that they both behave, and beginning to realise that could also be his future, is there any point at all in throwing himself into his work…and indeed, any point at all to life?
Powerful in both its performances and narrative, The Working Class Goes to Heaven is one of those movies that would otherwise have passed me by if not for Radiance Films and this superb release.
Great picture (a 2K restoration) and sound are accompanied by some very interesting and informative special features that flesh out the career of Gian Maria Volonté, the political situation of Italy at the time, the movies production, and more.
Make sure to bookmark Radiance Films and follow them on social media so as not to miss out on any of their releases.
- 2K restoration of the film
- Original uncompressed mono PCM audio
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- Archival interview with Elio Petri from the Cannes Film Festival
- Career-encompassing archival interview with Gian Maria Volonté from French TV
- Archival interview with actor Corrado Solari
- Appreciation of Gian Maria Volonté and the film by filmmaker Alex Cox
- Petri’s Praxis: Ideology and Cinema in Post-war Italy – A visual essay by scholar Matthew Kowalski on Petri’s relationship with left-wing politics and its impact on his cinema
- The Working Class Goes to Heaven – Background to a Film Shot in Novara (2006), by Serena Checcucci and Enrico Omodeo Salé; an unconventional making-of documentary, exploring the real-life factory location where the film was shot and the story behind the film’s production there, as told by the staff, film extras and crew
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Time Tomorrow
- Limited edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Eugenio Renzi, Elio Petri Investigation of a Filmmakerauthor Roberto Curti on Petri and Volonté’s collaborations and relationship, archival writing and reviews to be confirmed
- Limited edition of 2000 copies, presented in full-height Scanavo packaging with removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings
Released 2nd January 2023.
Review by Dave from a disc kindly supplied by Radiance Films via Fetch Publicity.