Lucian Pintilie's film is an exploration of the life of the miners disguised as a thriller. The events of the infamous "mineriada" - when in June 1990 miners attacked peaceful protesters in Bucharest and have been thanked by Romanian president Iliescu - are not the main focus of the film but they do provide a background as well as a starting point for the film. Pintilie does not try to excuse the behavior of the miners but he does try to see what makes people behave in such an appalling way. His alter ego in the film is the investigator, a young and inexperienced Dumitru Costa brilliantly portrayed by Razvan Vasilescu who tries to uncover crimes committed in the mine and discovers a myriad of corruption. This allows Pintilie to show the difficult, often dehumanizing life of the miners. The film is full with unforgettable grim images such as the scene of a dead body coming in a conveyor belt. While being critical to the behavior of the miners, Pintilie also shows a remarkable sympathy for those who work in such difficult conditions. But do the victims of the "mineriada" agree? Nonetheless Pintilie makes clear that there is no hope for life and even the idealistic investigator ultimately chooses the way of exile.
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