In Jasmina Wójcik’s Symphony of the Ursus Factory, easily a contender for the most aesthetically audacious film of this year’s festival, former workers of the titular agricultural machinery plant journey back to their former stomping grounds, now a decrepit and abandoned old building. But they’re not just there to catch up and reminisce about the past – the Ursus workers stage a large-scale re-enactment of a typical day at the plant, going through the motions as if they never left.
From the 1960s to the 1980s, the Ursus tractor was a hot commodity in Poland and the factory was churning them out in record numbers. Under the Soviet-influenced rule in the country at the time, it became a shining example of the communist work ethic. During the 1990s, however, the company encountered a decline in sales and massive debt problems, forcing numerous layoffs before the factory shut down altogether.
The workers all generally have fond memories of the Ursus plant, recalling a time when labour was a harmonious activity where everyone was respected and happy, something that seems like a distant memory compared to today’s workforce. In the factory’s aftermath, many of them were left adrift. Now, through this offbeat collaborative art project, they can find their footing once again, as they perform their old jobs while mimicking the sounds of the machinery that they used to be intimately acquainted with, resulting in an industrial musical performance of sorts.
The effect is reminiscent of the factory musical sequence in Dancer in the Dark but orchestrated far more organically, where the workers seem to merge with the environment as if that’s how it was always meant to be. The climactic “tractor ballet” is something for the ages, a bombastic spectacle that gives the central product a final glorious moment in the spotlight.
- Release Date: 4/27/2019
- Directed by: Jasmina Wójcik
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