Documentary meets conceptual art in this clinical and surprisingly droll study of the industrial processes that ensure the safe arrival of food on our tables. With no narration, interviews or music to speak of, director Nikolaus Geyrhalter lets his images do the talking, often locating a beautiful core at the centre of the most mundane of procedures.
The sight of cows, pigs, chickens and fish being slaughtered is, well, pretty revolting, but the long, unblinking shots manage to imbue the material with a hallucinatory quality as well as putting forward a deeply impartial tract on the ethics of food (a buzz topic, of course) that comes across like an arty riff on the work of Frederick Wiseman (specifically his ‘Meat’) rather than a lurid polemic like Richard Linklater’s ‘Fast Food Nation’.
All slicing, grinding and chopping aside, there’s something unexpectedly humourous in the detail, with many of its ‘scenes’ mirroring the mordant comic-tableaux style of directors like Aki Kaurismäki or Roy Andersson. One shot shows a man insouciantly sawing a cow carcass down the middle with an instrument that looks like it could have been nabbed from the set of a big-budget sci-fi movie. When he has finished, he pulls his mobile out of his overalls and starts chatting like he’s at a bus stop. And, for all metal and meat fetishists out there, this is the film you’ve been waiting your entire (peculiar) lives for.