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Movie Review: Our Daily Bread

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.
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.

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