From the Branches Drops the Withered Blossom

Déjà s'envole la fleur maigre

Paul Meyer, Belgium, 1959


The film takes place in the Borinage, Belgium, at the end of the ‘50’s. The coal mines which employ poor migrant workers from all over Europe have hit a serious crises, and start to close little by little, and suddenly unemployment is rife in this region with no other resources. 

In this sequence the workers’ children play with metal lids and seek out the slag heaps left over from their parent’s work.  To find somewhere to play the children have no choice but to recycle the landscape for their purposes, making the mountains of mine spoil in to their ‘snow’. Paul Meyer films this game of speed and dizziness with the utmost precision. To give us the sense of speed he locks the camera off, framing it perfectly so that when the children whizz past it’s only the dust generated by their passage through the frame that remains. The speed of the children crossing is conveyed by the frame’s fixed position.  The filmmaker contrasts the shots of the children playing alternating them with shots of wide, contemplative shots of Domenico, a former immigrant miner, who’s about to leave and go home to his own country, meeting Luigi, a little Italian whose family has just arrived in the area.  On their way they meet a group of children, who in their play, look like little bugs playing under metal covers.  This playful ‘collection’ of all the diverse group of beasties becomes a metaphor for all the national groups living together in the Borinage. 


adult world turned into a play.