Misère au Borinage  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Misère au Borinage (French, literally "Poverty in the Borinage"), also known as Borinage, was a 1934 Belgian documentary film directed by Henri Storck and Joris Ivens. Produced during the Great Depression, the film has a strongly socialist theme, covering the poor living conditions of the workers and coal miners of the Borinage region of Belgium. It is considered a classic work of political cinema.

The film was recorded in 1932 and explores the misery of the miners, the savage exploitaton of the workers and the difficult living conditions and illnesses of the miners, expelled from their homes if they couldn't afford the rent.

Henri Storck recalls: " We stopped thinking about cinema and how to frame shots and instead bacame dominated by the irrepressible need to produce images as stark, bare, and sincere as possible to fit the cruel facts reality had thrown at us."

Ivens used the method of re-enactment to incorporate the miners' strike of 1932 in the film.

Reality and fiction

Like most documentaries, it mixes reality and fiction, and in this case, sometimes contrary to authorial intention. For the film, the two directors had arranged a manifestation with extras from the Borinage. The miners were to walk behind a portrait of Karl Marx. The police mistook it for a real manifestation, they intervened and the "protest" was dispersed. This was filmed by Ivens and Storck. It would cause Walter Benjamin to write in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction:

"Similarly, the newsreel offers everyone the opportunity to rise from passer-by to movie extra. In this way any man might even find himself part of a work of art, as witness Vertov's Three Songs About Lenin or Ivens Borinage. Any man today can lay claim to being filmed. This claim can best be elucidated by a comparative look at the historical situation of contemporary literature."




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Misère au Borinage" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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