Disease and Affect
Disease and Affect
Post-Industrial Landscapes of France’s Labour Lost
Decades of plant closures in metropolitan France have created a heightened awareness of the disused quality of the country’s industrial landscape. Even as a burgeoning working-class heritage industry has attempted to rehabilitate some physical sites to educational or touristic ends, documentary filmmakers have turned to human communities that in the age of ‘délocalisation’ have been forcibly evicted from sites of productive labour. Drawing on the travelogue Et la vie (Denis Gheerbrant, 1991), the plant closure exposé Silence dans la vallée (Marcel Trillat, 2007) and the testimonial poetic meditation Le Chemin noir (Abdallah Badis, 2012), this chapter highlights a recurring documentary figure, namely the image of individual workers who explicate their present and past situation against the backdrop of blast furnaces, mine pits, slag heaps, or other disused industrial structures across the blighted regions of northern and north-eastern France. Filmed on the site of its expropriation, the labourer’s body becomes strongly performative, affirming the imperatives of collective working-class memory and lending layered meaning to otherwise mute landscapes. By re-presenting affect-laden speech and gesture, filmmakers negotiate oppositions between visibility and invisibility, technology and nature, nostalgia and futurity, so as to reassert documentary’s micropolitical purchase upon the real.
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