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Arbeiter verlassen die Fabrik, 1995

Workers Leaving the Factory, 1995

Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon was the first film in the history of cinema to be screened in public. Made in 1895, a single 45-second sequence shows workers leaving the photographic factory in Lyon owned by the brothers Louis and Auguste Lumière. Although the scene, an icon in the narrative medium that is cinema, clearly shows the workers as a social group and the space in front of the factory as a scenario of social conflicts, it also invites some frequently asked questions. Where are they going? Are they returning home after work or are they heading to a political meeting?

Along these lines, Harun Farocki constructs a documentary essay on this seminal sequence recorded by Louis Lumière by means of cinema’s own history. With consummate skill, he montages multiple scenes of workers leaving factories throughout the history of cinema. The result is a subtle cinematographic analysis embracing such films as Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Pier Paolo Passolini’s Accattone. Farocki’s film shows that the Lumière brothers’ sequence already carries the embryo of a predictable social development: the inevitable disappearance of this form of industrial work.

Technical details

Original title:
Arbeiter verlassen die Fabrik
Registration number:
Farocki, Harun
Date created:
Date acquired:
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
Object type:
Audiovisual recording
Single-channel video, colour and b/w, sound, 36 min
Edition number:
Ed. 2/10
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
© Harun Farocki
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