The title of Paul Meyer’s compassionate, sincere, and deeply personal feature film on immigrant labor, cultural assimilation, and exile, From the Branches Drops the Withered Blossom, is a line from a poem by Salvatore Quasimodo pondering the inevitability of change. Initially commissioned by the Ministry of Education to promote the integration of immigrant children into the Borinage school system, the film evolved into a cultural portrait of the increasingly desperate plight of the immigrant population, as the area’s primary commerce – the mining industry – fell to economic hardship, mass layoffs, and plant closures, and rendered the lives of these children more uncertain and hopeless. The film is highly reminiscent of Italian neorealism in its depiction of the working class: the familial bonds of Luchino Visconti in Rocco and His Brothers, the bleak, natural landscapes of Roberto Rossellini (such as the hot springs of Voyage in Italy), and industrial decay of Michelangelo Antonioni (particularly Red Desert). As in Klinkaart, Meyer employs parallel imagery to illustrate both real and surrogate families created by the work camp community, and is especially evident in the contrasts between the itinerant (and seemingly fragmented) Domenico and an underemployed Italian miner who sent for his large family to resettle in Borinage despite financial hardship and lack of employment opportunities.
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