Thursday, November 3, 2022

Commodification of Time VS Collectivist Anarchism

Unrueh (2022) - Schäublin Screen Shot 2022-10-30 at 8.38.10 AM Screen Shot 2022-10-30 at 8.03.28 AM Screen Shot 2022-10-30 at 7.27.10 AM Screen Shot 2022-10-30 at 7.51.56 AM Screen Shot 2022-10-30 at 8.52.36 AM Screen Shot 2022-10-30 at 8.52.13 AM Screen Shot 2022-10-30 at 8.51.17 AM Screen Shot 2022-10-30 at 8.45.26 AM Screen Shot 2022-10-30 at 7.35.49 AM Screen Shot 2022-10-30 at 8.56.54 AM When we think of Switzerland, few things come up to our minds- its long standing neutrality, direct participatory democracy, an army famous for its utility knives, punctuality and, watchmaking. Little did we know that up on the Jura mountains, near French-Swiss border, in the 1870s, were the hot spot for anarchism. Cyril Schäublin sets up the two contrasting forces - capitalism fueled by industrial revolution versus collectivist agitation in his beguiling film Unrest. It starts with a mild mannered, well-known Russian anarchist, Pyotr Kropotkin (Alexei Evstratov), rolling into a sleepy little town in the picturesque valley in the Jura Mountains, where its largest employer is a watchmaking factory. The large swats of its workers are comprised of women. The reason being, I am assuming, the nature of its delicate, detail oriented assembly work.

The traditional watchmaking process during this time, Schäublin demonstrates for us, is an extremely regimented, rigid, hands-on ritual that is half way between artisanal and Ford style assembly line, giving way to automation in the near future. The Factory owner and supervisors (all men) are all about productivity and time saving. With the local politicians' blessing, the town has four different time keeping - municipal, factory, local and church. If workers don't keep up with factory time, they are in jeopardy of losing their jobs. With the Jura Federation, the Bakuninist anti-state, anti-war anarchist group having a stronghold, workers and townsfolks, with the help of Kropotkin, engage in workplace agitation. They vote to form a union (despite efforts to thwart the voting from happening from the management), demand not to profit from selling their watches to military around the world.

This all sounds exciting on paper. But Schäublin's approach is nothing but sensational. Shot with flair for artful composition, the sun drenched Switzerland backdrop is gorgeous to look at. And slightly suggested budding romance between Kropotkin and factory worker Josephine (Clara Gostynski) is beautifully photographed. Under the warm sunlight, with autumn leaves making patterns on her face, Josephine explains to Kropotkin, the axis of unrest, a tiny coil piece causing the swing in the center of the mechanical watch. Thus the title having its impact - under the surface of a well made, well run system such as an immaculate Swiss made watch, there is a part that controls the ticking mechanism that is highly unstable when unbalanced. Unrest is a beautiful allegory of the society we live in now where commodifying time - they just announced that daylight savings time is permanent, is completely normal and the news talk about people's productivity's down as if we exist only to be productive at work. Stunning in its unassuming beauty and timely message, Unrest is a true hidden gem of the year.

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