Men at Work

Panu Johansson: Men at Work

Year of Production: 2010-2012
(1st version released in 2010, completely re-edited in 2014)
Running Time: 5min51s
Found footage 16mm film transferred to HD 1080p video.

Cinema has always had a special interest in factory workers. In fact the first Lumière brothers film "Workers Leaving the Factory" from 1895 has often been credited as the first motion picture ever made. In the 20th century also many experimental filmmakers depicted the rat race of modern life in their own way. Such films include for example "Manhatta" (1921) by Paul Strand & Charles Sheeler, "By Night with Torch and Spear" (1940s) by Joseph Cornell and "Necrology" (1969-1970) by Standish Lavender. The films "Men at Work" and "Smokestacks, Below" continue the same tradition.

These films also form a two-film series describing factory work as they have been compiled from the same found footage material. When screened together they demonstrate aptly the vast possibilities of found footage filmmaking. However, the films can be screened individually as well.

"Men at Work" depicts one average workday in the factory environment. The repetitive and dull nature of industrial work is underlined by speeding up the time code of the original material and by looping the material back and forth every now and then. When all natural movement is destroyed, the machines and the people working with them blend together and eventually become one. This way the factory itself becomes one living organism with various moving parts, some human, some not. By taking the form of one workday from morning till noon the film also hints that it could depict just any day, since in this kind of work all the days are more or less the same.

However, all this is done through humour and warm irony. All the techniques used are common clichés of postmodern audiovisual language and used widely in music videos among others. The industrial atmosphere is completed with the retro-synth flavoured audio track, which has been compiled from ready-made loops and samples and contains no actual "playing" in the traditional sense.

The audio track of the film has been published on MUU FOR EARS 10 compilation CD.