Dust is a German documentary about dust. It doesn’t aspire to the metaphysical poetics of, say, that Kansas song. Rather, it sticks to the dry particulars of the subject, and you begin to realize why people resort to such phrases as dull as dirt. Excited German scientists peer into air filters and examine the collected schmutz. Dust, as we learn from the narration, accounts for tons of poundage in our breathing air. It’s also the reason why the sky appears blue to us. About an hour in, the doc touches on 9/11 and the huge cloud of chemical refuse created in the wake of the falling towers. Minutes later, we’re back with some artist who collects lint for fun.
How seriously you take Dust will depend not only on your patience, but on how anxious a streaky bookshelf makes you. Productive avenues are strangely not explored. We see janitors cleaning offices, but what about history’s famous germaphobes? Isn’t this the moment to discuss the psychology of Howard Hughes? How about some info on the Industrial Revolution or L.A.’s smog? Nope—not when there are more boring Berlin factories to visit. The director, a serious mind who’s made films about the Autobahn and airplanes, seems distracted by minutiae. His Dust is a real chore.