A conscientious factory worker gets his finger cut off by a machine. Although the physical handicap is not serious, the accident causes him to become more involved in political and revolutionary groups.
Lulù is a real hard worker. For this reason he is loved by the masters and hated by his own colleagues. The unions decide agitations against the masters. Lulù doesn't agree till he cuts, by accident, one of his own fingers. Now, after he understood the worker's conditions, he agrees the unions and participates to the strike. He immediately is fired and, not only is abandoned by his lover, but also by the other workers. But the fights of the unions allow him under a new legislation to be hired again. At this point his mind starts giving collapse signs... Written by
"The Working Class Goes to Heaven" stars Gian Maria Volonté, who appeared in earlier Elio Petri films like "We Still Kill the Old Way" and "Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion." The Marxist director's critique of capitalist society is at play in this movie as in so many of his others. Volonté plays Lulù Massa, a lathe-operator in a Milan factory which pays by piece work. Lulù is a fast worker, the pride of the management and the bane of the workers who consider him a threat. The work is a nightmare of monotony, and the workers are continually timed and fined for underproduction. "Even a monkey could do this work," Lulù says.
Like the comic tramp in Charlie Chaplin's 1935 "Modern Times," he feels dehumanized, exploited, empty. His relationship with his mistress and her TV-mesmerized son is strained. He asks an older friend in an insane asylum, "How did you know you were going mad? A man has a right to know what he is doing, what he's useful for."
At the end of the conversation with his mad friend (Salvo Randone) at the asylum, the man begins to leave and Lulù inadvertently remains. The insane asylum seems normal, while the factory, the "real" world, appears insane.
Lulù ignores the worker movement and strikers until he loses a finger in an accident while carelessly overworking. He becomes a symbol for the ills of the factory, and a radicalization process ensues until he is fired for taking a stand against the managers.
Eventually re-hired and given a demeaning assembly-line job, he daydreams enviously of his friend in the madhouse.
Gian Maria Volonté gives the beleaguered hero a pathetic and comic dimension which is always convincing, performing with bold strokes rather than by subtle illumination. Petri's directorial technique uses a similar approach. A highlight is an uproarious scene of lovemaking in a Fiat with co-worker Mieta Albertini.
The film won the grand prize at Cannes in 1972. It runs two hours in its full version and 1½ hours in a truncated version peculiarly called "Lulu the Tool." It is a major Italian film from the 1970s.
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