Analysis of Germinal Essays

Decent Essays
Germinal, based on the landmark novel by Emile Zola, presents a startlingly authentic and powerful look into the tumultuous, tragedy-riddled lives of 19th century French coal miners. Forced to endure hellish conditions, risk death and dismemberment, and work from before dawn until after dusk, these men and women had only one alternative to mining: starvation. Germinal is not a happy story, but it is impossible not to sense the realism that pervades the project.

The film opens with the arrival of Etienne Lantier (Renaud) at the Voreux coal mine. An out-of- work machinist, Etienne is willing to do almost anything to make money, including descending into the pit and taking pick-axe to coal. He is befriended by Maheu (Gerard Depardieu),
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As a strike looms, one such woman hopes that this unfortunate turn of events won't disrupt her plans for a lunch party.

Berri's indictment of plight of the miners is at once simple and moving. While Zola's impassioned cry for social reform is at the heart of Germinal, the interactions of the individual characters represent the picture's soul, and lift it above other movies with similar messages.

There is the unconditional love of one man, Maheu, for his family, and the sacrifices he must endure for them. Maheu is a hard worker, and in his heart he believes in the innate goodness of man. He cannot accept, for example, that soldiers brought in to defend the mine would fire on their own countrymen.

Germinal, which cost $30 million to make, is a lavish production, and it's clear that the money was well-spent. The scenes in the mine are remarkable in conveying the desperate circumstances confronting the characters. How many members of the audience experienced an irrational desire to wash away the accumulating coal dust from their own skin?

Aided in no small part by an exemplary cast, Claude Berri has brought to the screen a masterpiece, interweaving personal tragedy and social upheaval against the background of a way of life that would not yield easily to change. There is much that is right about Germinal, and very little that
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