In the 1890s, Father Adolf Daens goes to Aalst, a textile town where child labor is rife, pay and working conditions are horrible, the poor have no vote, and the Catholic church backs the ... See full summary »
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In the 1890s, Father Adolf Daens goes to Aalst, a textile town where child labor is rife, pay and working conditions are horrible, the poor have no vote, and the Catholic church backs the petite bourgeoisie in oppressing workers. He writes a few columns for the Catholic paper, and soon workers are listening and the powerful are in an uproar. He's expelled from the Catholic party, so he starts the Christian Democrats and is elected to Parliament. After Rome disciplines him, he must choose between two callings, as priest and as champion of workers. In subplots, a courageous young woman falls in love with a socialist and survives a shop foreman's rape; children die; prelates play billiards. Written by
Jan Decleir stars as the real-life populist preacher Father Daens, who helped textile workers in Europe struggle for justice in the late 19th century. This is a very moving and powerful film which squarely takes on many problems which our modern industrial societies have inherited from the Industrial Revolution.
Especially heartbreaking and infuriating are the scenes which juxtapose young factory children being overworked, abused and mangled by the textile machines with rich and powerful nobles around their sumptuous dinner tables. The emotional high point of the film, for me, came when Daens gives an impromptu speech in a church, shouting out, "People scream, 'we are hungry!' Loud and clear!" It is difficult not to be emotionally caught by such a scene.
Father Daens ultimately shows in this film what Gandhi told someone: that one's religion is in one's actions, not in one's words, clothes or wealth.
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