Beautiful Things deals with some explicitly not beautiful things: oil drilling, cargo hauling, self-described “torture” (scientific experimentation), and trash burning. All these odd occupations are tied together by a visual motif: they take place in environments stripped bare aside from an occasional large piece of machinery operating in the vicinity. First-time director Giorgio Ferrero goes for a rigidly formalist approach that mirrors other sensory-focused films like Dead Slow Ahead, with scene after scene of oppressively barren landscapes and an intensely overwhelming soundtrack that adds to a feeling of utter helplessness. That effect has some impact during this film’s first section, which depicts the slow, hypnotic movement of an oil rig against the static scenery that surrounds it. But Ferrero essentially just repeats that juxtapositional tactic for the remaining three sections of Beautiful Things. The director’s goal is an interesting one: take generally undesirable (and, to be frank, rather boring) work that the world needs and give it an aestheticized visual representation. But that representation tends to be a pretty one-note strangeness, which often just ends up being something to ogle at.
Published as part of Venice International Film Festival 2017.