I don’t think anyone can have the vaguest idea of the scale, extent and impact of industrialization on the Earth, until they see Edward Burtynsky’s photos and this amazing documentary. In Manufactured Landscapes, large scale changes of the environment have a bitter beauty and it’s something of their massiveness that’s necessary to perceive in order to get it. Get what? Get a mind image of what we talk about when we talk about over-consumption, overly-populated cities, about way too cheap labor force and about the price of being an ‘individual consumer’.
What I also like about this film, is not only the way it shows the scale of ‘progress’ but also the rhythm of life attached to it, the feeling of an unshakable life pace. Directed by Canadian documentary maker Jeniffer Baichwal, the camera follows well known photographer Edward Burtynsky on a trip that portrays how progress is changing China. It is 80 minutes of large scale photos and of slow paced sequences intertwined with interviews.
The film itself attaches no moral judgement to what you see. But once you see it, you can no longer forget that you saw there is no ‘individual’ in this environment and everything is so routinized and mechanized.
A friend once asked me why do we marvel when we see a very high mountain. I told him it’s because it incites our imagination. After seeing Manufactured Landscapes I came to believe I was so impressed by its large scale images, because my mind and no one’s mind is made to imagine such views. If you don’t see it, it does not exist. And I think everyone should see it.
See the trailer (in not so good quality I’m afraid) and some of the photos below.
All images © Edward Burtynsky