Manufactured Landscapes (2007)
‘Manufactured Landscapes’ is a documentary based on the work of photographer Edward Burtynsky and directed by Jennifer Baichwal. The works of a well-known Canadian environmental photographer Edward Burtynsky are representing the natural landscapes that have undergone radical changes resulting from the impact of the post-industrial civilization.
The film was made during the photographer’s trip to Asia, mainly to China and Bangladesh, and combines Edward’s interview, the documentary filmed at the biggest factories and sewage treatment plants, in the coal mines in the region of the giant hydroelectric Three Gorges, in an ever-changing Shanghai with pictures of industrial landscapes. Burtinsky captured the places, where the flock from all over the minerals, presented by nature to turns to the things that we use every day without thinking about their origin; the places, where the already worn out products come to and, having undergone processing, again become raw materials; the places, in which construction and development are conducted in the most improbable scale in recent years. Ecological problems are spoken about differently: persistently and noisy as in Greenpeace, beautifully and creatively as Jackson’s video for the song ‘What about us?’; scientifically, technically and confusingly as in scientists’ predictions; and sometimes they are spoken about metaphorically, allegorically, like in the film ‘Manufactured Landscapes’, which depicts difficult relationship between man and nature, and tends to be something more than just informative dissemination on environmental issues.
Although current ecological problems caused by industrialization are familiar to the viewer, it is worth seeing the picture of the world with Edward Burtynsky’s eyes.What makes the film special is that the premises are revealed mainly not by words but by the camera work. After seeing the first five minutes of the documentary, when the camera makes long series of moves along the assembly line, showing the hard-working Chinese people at the work place, you will understand that the scale of the scenes is important for both Burtynsky and Baichwal. Hundreds of workers in yellow jackets come out of the factory on the street, build in long rows – up to the horizon – and the artist makes a desired shot.
Firstly the viewer sees the pictures of quarries and mines the places where the raw material is extracted. Then there are factories, construction sites and processing plants – the places where the raw material becomes habitual to all kind of household. Then go the photos of the landfills, recycling plants – the places where old stuff is recycled to become a raw material. The mountains of tires, the kilometers of construction sites, the tons of coal – all these photos tell the bitter truth without words.The film astonishes by some pictures, which are not only tell a lot to an average office worker but are also thought-provoking and motivating. I remember the picture of a smooth cube – the result of the compact garbage – the structure of which is clearly resembles thousands of colorful caps from bottles.