If, in Brot, we find the individual stories, as well as the amusing anecdotes of each producer, particularly interesting, the most magnetic and captivating moments are undoubtedly those in which the camera lingers on the close-ups and extreme close-ups of the individual doughs, their appearance during the leavening process, passionate and almost frenetic hands kneading, and tender loaves of bread about to become tasty delicacies.
Good as gold
What does bread represent in our culture and daily lives? And again: how important is it to eat natural products, without chemical additives or pesticides? Documentary filmmaker Harald Friedl, rather than asking explicit questions about this, takes us on an exciting – and quite tasty! – journey across Europe, showing us some food factories specialising in bread production, which use lengthy processes in order to achieve a maximum quality of the bread produced. This is how the documentary Brot (“bread’) originated. The film was supposed to be part of the selection of the Diagonale 2020, but following the cancellation of the festival, it was included in the programme Diagonale 2020 – The Unfinished.
So, starting from the ancient organic bakery Öfferl, in the heart of Austria, the director moved on to the German Harry-Brot factory, and then visited a historic bakery in Paris, the Poilâne bakery, and the Belgian Puratos factory. Each of these realities follows its own traditions and principles, each of them aiming at quality combined with great productivity and passion.
It is interesting to observe, in Brot, how each baker follows different principles in the production of bread: if, for example, in Austria strong arms are still needed for kneading, in Germany the entire factory has a much more technological, almost futuristic design. And, finally, if in Belgium people enjoy filming their loaves rising in the oven while they are baking, in France they also sell loaves of bread in slices, so as to avoid waste and to ensure that the customer frequents the bakery daily, as if it were a café or, in any case, a meeting place.
Harald Friedl, for his part, opted for a directorial approach that was as essential and classic as possible, appearing invisible in front of the camera, letting the images speak for themselves and allowing the protagonists to tell their stories naturally in front of the camera, while they were intent on their daily tasks.
The director does not aim, in his Brot, to give definitive answers on the subject. And even though highly topical issues, mainly concerning the quality of food and the use of pesticides or substances that are in any case harmful to health, are inevitably raised, the entire documentary immediately takes on the character of a varied and colourful fresco of today’s Europe, for a series of realities that, thanks to modern technology, do everything to keep traditions and what has been learned from the past alive. Perhaps even creating a sort of ‘library’ with the finest doughs used all over the world, displayed to the visitors like artworks in a museum.
And while we find the individual tales, as well as the amusing anecdotes of each producer, to be extremely interesting, the most magnetic and captivating moments are undoubtedly those in which the camera lingers on the close-ups and extreme close-ups of the single doughs, their appearance during the leavening process, passionate and almost frenetic hands kneading, and tender loaves about to become tasty delicacies. All for a kind of nourishment as old as the world, which, closely linked to the concept of motherhood, is able to bring together people from all backgrounds and age groups.
Original title: Brot
Directed by: Harald Friedl
Country/year: Austria, Germany / 2020
Running time: 94’
Screenplay: Harald Friedl
Cinematography: Helmut Wimmer
Produced by: Navigator Film, Lichtblick Film