From the opening wish of Bill Wither's song, "Just the Two of Us," to the film's final curtain call, the subject is love. STRUGGLE is a wrenching look at immigrants bussed into Austria to perform the menial labor jobs for Austria, driving past the meticulously clean homes, then showing a nearly 30 minute, near wordless montage, shot after shot of workers in the field picking strawberries, or gutting turkeys in a slaughterhouse, or polishing glasses and placing them in a case, or scrubbing down someone's pool where we witness a young man bring her a glass of water and report `my mother wishes me to tell you that you may take a short break now.' The accumulated evidence of boring, repetitious labor, for near minimal wages, all perfectly framed by the camera, shot after shot, day after day, leaves little doubt that the demeaning, dehumanizing system is little more than indentured servitude, working in the fields from 5 am to 6 pm. While there are small moments captured near bedtime where the children want to play and the mothers are too dog-tired, peace comes only when they are asleep, tightly packed into small quarters that resemble an overcrowded cattle car. At one point, as the bus takes workers back across the boarder, one woman and her child run away. The child thinks it's all a game, but one understands the desperation of such a move. What this leads to is standing in a designated area on the side of the highway where cars will pull up and ask for cheap labor, where groups of immigrant workers plead for work a place where no children are wanted or allowed, and children mysteriously get separated from their mothers. At one point, the area is raided, and they split up, all running in different directions at once, the camera follows one woman who runs past an entire field, then over a hill to apparent safety, where she breaks down in tears.
Cut to a man driving in a BMW improbably singing to the upbeat sounds of the Nilsson song `Everybody's Talkin' think MIDNIGHT COWBOY, as he's on his way to work, inspecting factory warehouses, one story buildings where he's in charge of inspecting a plethora of nothing but empty, locked rooms, a chore which resembles his empty, solitary life. He makes a pitiful visit to his daughter, neither showing any affection nor understanding one another, which is mirrored in a later scene when he visits his mother in a senior home. What we witness is a man as pathetic as the earlier illegal laborers who have no choice but to work in those subhuman conditions. This gentleman has choices, but he is heartless and soulless, an empty shell of what it is to be human.
It appears many of the viewers missed the point if they see no connection between the first and second halves of the film.
This is a documentary film that concisely, with agonizing detail, compares an exploitive class of workers, in this case Polish illegal immigrants for hire, who perform the dirty, menial jobs that no Austrians would dare do, who are completely dismissed as a subhuman species, yet they are no less exploited than the so-called successful middle class, who are commercially exploited by false expectations that happiness can be bought and paid for, languishing in a spiritual void, leading meaningless lives that are empty of love and affection. This dichotomy is explored with meticulous precision by first time Austrian director Ruth Mader, who uses an economy of stark imagery to combine what seems like two entirely opposite worlds into one brilliantly detached observation of the human race.
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