The Gleaners and I is a film made by veteran French director Agnes Varda. The director is also recognized for her previous works such as 1962's ‘Cleo from 5 to 7’ and 1986's ‘Vagabond’. Born in 1928, at age 25; she made her first feature ‘La Pointe-Courte’ in 1954, which French film historian Georges Sadoul called “The First Film of the French Nouvelle Vague”. She has also directed more than 32 other films between 1954 and 2001 before directing The Gleaners and I.
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The film is a 2001 release that features Wertheimer, Varda and Litnanski. It is principally played in French with English subtitles running slightly more than an hour. It was first screened out of competition at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival. The movie refers to Gleaners as those people who collect and live off of the remains of others. They usually scavenge the remains of a crop after the harvest which is an age-old practice performed traditionally by peasant women. The filmmaker travels far and wide in the French country to city to find and film the gleaners. The film has taken time capturing the many aspects of gleaning and the many people who glean for survival.
In the course of travelling she equates makes an equivalent of those gleaners with present day of gleaners who collect rejected potatoes and fallen apples for food. She also found that even the graduates have found themselves in the agony of gleaning a good example of Mr. Allan who is a French teacher in a migrant school. Her encounter with the people reveals that the suffering has taken more than ten years to some and no hopes to get out of it. Gleaning is referring to the process of collecting the remains of crops from harvested fields in the French countryside. Due to this despair many groups engage in gleaning everything much as they have done for many years. Not only in the countryside that gleaning activities take place but there also exist urban gleaners who salvage leftovers from bins, roadside appliances and stall vegetables after market closure. Varda herself is represented as a gleaner in a manner that she drives all around the country with a tiny camera and a very tiny screw that makes her experience much difficulty in the process of shooting the film making the viewer to feel intimacy on her (Varda 2001).
During her effort, she interviews quite a number of leaned people who were supposed to have a good life but finds them in the trash. The first is a chef who had gleaned his own spices from nature. Although the man has a job, he eats from the trash. A homeless teacher who salvages good tomatoes after a farmer's market has come and gone. Some couple of scenes of lawyers standing among the fields and the trash, reading from their law books about the rules of gleaning, this is in contrast to the fact that no one seems to know or care about them. Another scenario is when Varda takes film composer Francois Wertheimer hunting through trash piles on street corners.
The gleaner and I is much of a political film that even though it offers a sequence of poetic metaphor and encounters in lieu of unambiguous sound arguments. The film present the feminism suffering that has been historically been established. The gleaning work has since time immemorial been the work of women even if current gleaners are men. Gleaning is a home significance for resistance that strengthens the connection to the reality around. The political appearance of the film has much to do with the popular success without particularly referring specifically to political movements of the country. The film embodies a quasi revolutionary in all sorts of way that includes a struggle to consumerism, distrust to authority and desire to merge politics with the daily life of the citizen. The movie is an environmental film and it means that more than greener politics to focus on the issue of gleaning.
The movie has made use of different styles in its effort to pass the message. Symbolism being one of them has almost dominated the movie. She reveals to the audience unusual things that she come across. For example, a clock without hands is a show of how the society has been abandoned and left to live the life of misery for long time. The heart-shaped potatoes that are carried away by trucks on the highway is an indication of how the peoples hope to satisfy their basic needs has been washed away mercilessly by the powerful.
Varda’s choice to make a digital camera her primary tool of production as well as a central element of her film can be seen as an implicit recognition of a new digital era in documentary filmmaking. The use of digital video camera may sound as ineffective but her decision to use them seems more practical than any other way. She notes in one of her interviews that: “I had the feeling that this is the camera that would bring me back to the early short films. I felt free at that time. With the new digital camera, I felt I could film myself, get involved as a filmmaker”. This is a bold statement to her critics. She also acknowledges the video convenience; however, she downplays any great importance attached to it (Haden 2009).
Another factor that that The Gleaners and I worthwhile watching is the fact that the filmmaker chose to use low-end digital video rather than use high-end film equipment. This in turn aids in bringing good visuals of her aging hands. The lightweight camera permits her to get into places that a high-ended production crew would not access easily. It also allows Varda to film herself in her Paris home at her own convenience. Somewhere during the film she films her hand and jokes about how old she is getting and also in the process filming a handless clock that as a gleaner, she gleaned from a junk pile This clock indicates a passage of time. She is therefore a gleaner in the field of technology because, unlike others who are able to provide for high end film production, she can only afford to do it by herself.
Towards the end, Varda takes a look at a beautiful painting of gleaners hunched over their work in a field. It had been stored in the back room of a museum where she requests the museum workers to bring it outside for her to look at it in the light. Just as they get it outside, the weather changes suddenly to gray and windy. This demonstrates moments of life blending with art bringing out a good image.
Finally, the film informs the viewer about good use of poetry. I5t was one of the best movies at its time. Sometimes, We may have reasons for thinking a movie is good or bad, whether it is well made or incoherent, or whether we find it honest or deceitful, but sometimes we can’t choose movies we love. In my opinion I would rate The Gleaners and I as one of the best to deliver the theme of civilian misrepresentation by the political elite who has brought to them the suffering they face.