Individuals are so used to "narrative cinema" unfolding a conventional story that something entirely different becomes incomprehensible. This movie rates with "Grapes of Wrath" in honestly depicting the dignity of those laborers who brought us the commodities that we all take for granted - whether coal, copper, or corn. But these coal fields are now replaced by a newer world - which although less bleak is also less meaningful. The beginning of the film shows the present...but what forms the heart of the film is the past.
There is no dialogue. Accompanied by a haunting brass score, the film is a sequence of slow motion archival footage of coal miners, their union organizers, and their families. One scene bleeds into another and another so that time is suspended. Watching and listening, the film operates as a life experience. And that experience made me meditate on the true meaning of community - one that lives together, works together, feasts together, and dies together. Without speech, the film speaks instead to our subconscious. As to the photography, we witness the coal miners descending a shaft to enter a narrow dark hell, we cheer their parades, we sympathize with their union solidarity, One of the most emotional images is a mass of faces waiting for news of survivors in a mining disaster. The music repeatedly evokes those long forgotten brass bands celebrating the laborers.
This is raw cinema ... in an old form - e.g. the silent Soviet film "Earth (1930)" ... or is it new? Astonishing, brave, brilliant, and profound.
If you have family ties to coal mining in the Durham (UK) coal fields, this is a must see. Fantastic, down in the mine views of the evolution of digging by pick to the final days of automated mining. Touching scenes of the final days of the coal fields following the breaking of the strikes by government forces. Beautiful air views of the reclaimed areas that used to be collieries.
Haunting and other-worldly this film says so much without words. The music and imagery mesh completely- I really felt being down in the mine. You get an incredible sense of the landscape and land so that you smell it and feel the damp.