Workingman's Death

Workingman's Death is a 2005 Austrian-German documentary film written and directed by Michael Glawogger. It premiered at the 2005 Venice Film Festival. The film deals with the extremes to which workers go to earn a living in several countries around the world.

Workingman's Death
Workingmans death.jpg
DVD cover
Directed byMichael Glawogger
Produced byPepe Danquart
Erich Lackner
Mirjam Quinte
Written byMichael Glawogger
Music byJohn Zorn
CinematographyWolfgang Thaler
Edited byIlse Buchelt
Monika Willi
Release date

  • 25 November 2005 (2005-11-25) (Austria)
Running time
122 minutes
LanguagePashto, Yoruba, German, English, Igbo, Indonesian, Mandarin, Russian

The film is composed of six differently titled chapters. The first five depict hazardous conditions of hard laborers around the world and the sixth shows contrasting scenes of youths in a former German industrial complex which had been converted into a leisure park:

  1. Heroes – Miners of Donets Basin, Ukraine
  2. Ghosts – Sulfur carriers in Ijen, Indonesia
  3. Lions – Butchers in an open-air market in Port Harcourt, Nigeria
  4. Brothers – Welders in the Gadani ship-breaking yard in Pakistan
  5. The Future – Steel workers in Liaoning, China
  6. Epilogue – Youths in Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord in Germany


The film was met with a largely positive critical reception with a 73% approval rating reported by Rotten Tomatoes as of March 2011, with several critics praising its visual feel.[1] Walter Addiego of the San Francisco Chronicle' wrote that "Despite the hardships depicted, many sequences have a dreamlike beauty. In addition, the director has a bone-dry sense of irony; during the Ukraine scenes, he frequently cuts away to a statue of Stakhanov, the 'hero' lauded by the Soviets for his superhuman work habits".[2]

Film critic Nathan Rabin, writing for The A.V. Club, said that "Glawogger is an extraordinarily elegant filmmaker with a photographer's eye for striking compositions. He seems to have selected the jobs documented here as much for their telegenic qualities as their all-around awfulness, and he excels at divining moments of pure cinema and haunting beauty out of the most perilous places and professions on Earth".[3]

The Village Voice's Michael Atkinson wrote that "Glawogger's film may be thematically loose-jointed, but Wolfgang Thaler's cinematography is the glue; the signature move—a flowing Steadicam track before or following a subject—blooms into variations on a visceral theme, especially as it rhymes the Nigerian butchers stalking through acres of red mud dragging bull heads with the Indonesians carrying rocks down smoking, tourist-littered mountain paths".[4]

Awarding Body Award Nominee Result
Directors Guild of America0 Best Director - Documentary Feature Michael Glawogger0 Nominated
European Film Awards Best Documentary Michael Glawogger0 Nominated
German Film Awards Best Documentary Pepe Danquart
Erich Lackner
Mirjam Quinte
Gijón Film Festival Special Jury Award Won
Leipzig DOK Festival FIPRESCI Prize Won
London Film Festival Grierson Award Michael Glawogger0 Won
Yerevan Festival Golden Apricot for Best Documentary0 Won


  1. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes: Workingman's Death". Flixter. Retrieved 2011-03-05.
  2. ^ Addiego, Walter (5 May 2006). "Workingman's Death". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  3. ^ Rabin, Nathan (21 February 2006). "Workingman's Death". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  4. ^ Atkinson, Michael (14 February 2006). "Men at Work". The Village Voice. Retrieved 5 March 2011.

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