AMONG THE DELUGE of media imagery pumped into us every day, there are a lot of things that make me want to take the big step off the grid. Our Daily Bread pushes pretty far, reminding me that until I can grow all my own food and take myself out of the supermarket/fact-ory farm/pesticide/mass-produced ghetto, I'm not living a life right with myself.
Shot across Europe by Austrian filmmaker Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Our Daily Bread shows us our food in the final steps before the market and restaurant. We see fields of sunflowers rained down upon by pesticides, salmon sucked up tubes from their fjords, and a whole assortment of animals panicking as they're forced onto the disassembly line. There is no narration and no message (or Geyrhalter says, anyway). The idea behind Our Daily Bread was simply to let the cameras roll, and let the audience come up with its own conclusions.
Still, as hard as this film was to watch, it was also one of the most beautifully shot films I've seen. Like the lack of dialogue, there's no music, just the natural hum and drone of machines. It has a mellow, comforting, warm purr, and really fills up a room, not to mention a theater. (Though I say this as a fan of noise bands, so take that however you'd like.) The footage, shot in high-definition digital video that was then transferred to 35mm, is gloriously vibrant. It's all long slow pans and fixed camera angles that allow you to feel the static tedium of life in industrial agriculture. But artful or not, this film is a difficult creature. Try it out, but be forewarned—it might just throttle you out of your Safeway shopping, Taco Bell-loving complacency.