• en
  • de


  • Forced labour even after death


    Konrad Wakolbinger

    A capitalism-critical reading of the zombie film on the occasion of the release of Zombi Child (2019) by Bertrand Bonello.

    Zombies as swaying figures with rotting open wounds and bloo­d­s­tai­ned dis­lo­ca­ted faces aimlessly chasing people have been a familiar film subject to us since George Romero’s “The Night of the Living Dead” in 1968.

    In his film “Zombi Child” (France, 2019), which is set in a strict Catholic boarding school for girls in today’s Paris and 1960s Haiti, Bertrand Bonello moves away from this cha­rac­te­ri­sa­ti­on and instead follows on in homage to the first zombie feature film in history, ”White Zombie”. Directed by Viktor Halperin and inde­pendent­ly produced by his brother Edward in 1932, during Hol­ly­woo­d’s short pre-code period, was also set in Haiti and also manifests the form of the undead, a common form of voodoo that ori­gi­na­ted there. Before George Romero coined the genre-typical ‘zombie’, zombies appeared in the form of pon­de­rous­ly moving, will-less and unfeeling, outwardly unscathed corpses.

    In both Bonello’s and Halperin’s inter­pre­ta­ti­ons, the zombies robbed of their souls by a zombie master are exploited at night as slaves in the sugar cane plan­ta­ti­ons. Although research suggests that the phe­no­me­non of the zombie did not first develop during the Carib­be­an’s slave trade era, but was actually brought from Africa with the voodoo cult, the original zombie films and also “Zombi Child” allow a reading that shows the same hopeless fate — forced labour even after death.

    Nothing could have been more pro­fi­ta­ble for the elites of the European colonial powers than the sugar plan­ta­ti­ons of the Caribbean. The African slaves were the “fuel” of this proto-indus­tri­al economy and after a few years they were “inci­ne­ra­ted”.

    Although Romero chose a different formal cine­ma­to­gra­phic language, his zombie films also contains a political subtext. His criticism of American consumer society is quite evident in “Zombie” (1978), where the final fight for humanity took place laughably in a shopping mall. Romero sees the zombies as a revo­lu­tio­na­ry expres­si­on of that sick society.

    Bonello’s critique of society is more sub­ver­si­ve­ly embedded in a cliché teenager-in- love story. The girl-clique of the French elite boarding school in “Zombi Child” is fasci­na­ted by the voodoo tradition of their comrade from Haiti. When one of the school­girls takes a stab at voodoo out of love­sick­ness and without malicious intent, in a quasi-colo­nia­list manner, death inva­ria­b­ly occurs. The cultural appro­pria­ti­on of voodoo by a white European woman stands as a metaphor for the explo­ita­ti­on and sub­ju­ga­ti­on of the southern hemisphere.

    Zombi Child Trailer 

    White Zombie 1932 - Full Film 

    Zombie / Dawn of the Dead (1978) - Trailer 

    Film Still (all)

    Tags

    Forced labour even after death

    Konrad Wakolbinger

    A capitalism-critical reading of the zombie film on the occasion of the release of Zombi Child (2019) by Bertrand Bonello.

    Zombies as swaying figures with rotting open wounds and bloo­d­s­tai­ned dis­lo­ca­ted faces aimlessly chasing people have been a familiar film subject to us since George Romero’s “The Night of the Living Dead” in 1968.

    In his film “Zombi Child” (France, 2019), which is set in a strict Catholic boarding school for girls in today’s Paris and 1960s Haiti, Bertrand Bonello moves away from this cha­rac­te­ri­sa­ti­on and instead follows on in homage to the first zombie feature film in history, ”White Zombie”. Directed by Viktor Halperin and inde­pendent­ly produced by his brother Edward in 1932, during Hol­ly­woo­d’s short pre-code period, was also set in Haiti and also manifests the form of the undead, a common form of voodoo that ori­gi­na­ted there. Before George Romero coined the genre-typical ‘zombie’, zombies appeared in the form of pon­de­rous­ly moving, will-less and unfeeling, outwardly unscathed corpses.

    In both Bonello’s and Halperin’s inter­pre­ta­ti­ons, the zombies robbed of their souls by a zombie master are exploited at night as slaves in the sugar cane plan­ta­ti­ons. Although research suggests that the phe­no­me­non of the zombie did not first develop during the Carib­be­an’s slave trade era, but was actually brought from Africa with the voodoo cult, the original zombie films and also “Zombi Child” allow a reading that shows the same hopeless fate — forced labour even after death.

    Nothing could have been more pro­fi­ta­ble for the elites of the European colonial powers than the sugar plan­ta­ti­ons of the Caribbean. The African slaves were the “fuel” of this proto-indus­tri­al economy and after a few years they were “inci­ne­ra­ted”.

    Although Romero chose a different formal cine­ma­to­gra­phic language, his zombie films also contains a political subtext. His criticism of American consumer society is quite evident in “Zombie” (1978), where the final fight for humanity took place laughably in a shopping mall. Romero sees the zombies as a revo­lu­tio­na­ry expres­si­on of that sick society.

    Bonello’s critique of society is more sub­ver­si­ve­ly embedded in a cliché teenager-in- love story. The girl-clique of the French elite boarding school in “Zombi Child” is fasci­na­ted by the voodoo tradition of their comrade from Haiti. When one of the school­girls takes a stab at voodoo out of love­sick­ness and without malicious intent, in a quasi-colo­nia­list manner, death inva­ria­b­ly occurs. The cultural appro­pria­ti­on of voodoo by a white European woman stands as a metaphor for the explo­ita­ti­on and sub­ju­ga­ti­on of the southern hemisphere.

    Zombi Child Trailer

    White Zombie 1932 - Full Film

    Zombie / Dawn of the Dead (1978) - Trailer

    Film Still (all)

    Tags


    Comparative work studies with the camera: Darcy Lange

    Com­pa­ra­ti­ve work studies with the camera: Darcy Lange

    With his camera, the artist Darcy Lange provided important scientific material on work and education, which still begs to be analysed in social and educational research.

    The bossy Apps

    The bossy Apps

    What remains of the great promise of the gig economy: freedom through autonomy.

    Society without connection

    Society without connection

    The new film "Please hold the line" (2020) by Pavel Cuzuioc loosely follows the work of service technicians in the telecommunications industry in the far east of Europe while actually portraying their customers more. Those who are in danger of losing their connection to society.

    Forklift-Conflicts

    Forklift-Conflicts

    In the Aisles (2018) by Thomas Stuber is the ultimate warehouse-worker feature film. There has never been so much 'workplace' featured in a movie, set in a wholesale market, with so much insight into learning the ropes of an unskilled job. On top of that, romance.

    Korea's Generation Internship 4.0

    Korea’s Genera­ti­on Internship 4.0

    The TV series "Misaeng: Incomplete Life" gives deep insights into South-Korea's working world and the difficult transition to get there.

    Still, Lazzaro is happy

    Still, Lazzaro is happy

    Alice Rohrwacher's film about the dubious liberation from a relationship of subjection

    1 20 21 22 23 24 30


    About this blog

    By selecting a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. They are both based in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their cor­re­spon­ding articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.

    About this blog

    With picking a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. We both work in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their respec­ti­ve articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.