Slovenian feature film The Miner, directed by Hanna Slak, had its international premiere at the 2017 Warsaw Film Festival in the International Competition, following its September release in Slovenian cinemas.
Inspired by real-life events, The Miner is that rare kind of film that bears witness to painful history and has a deep significance and emotional investment for those who made it.
It brings to the big screen the story of a coal miner who in 2009 discovered the remnants of around 4,000 people who were buried alive in a mine in Slovenia sometime after World War Two. Far from being a thriller, this film is instead a drama about the consequences of war, and the fight of simple people against a system that has little respect for truth and human lives.
Besides shedding light on this shocking discovery and questioning the way in which the authorities handled it, the film respectfully pays tribute to the bravery and integrity of the miner who made the discovery and tried to make it public, despite being shunned and reproached by Slovenian society. As Slak herself said when presenting the film in Warsaw, few Slovenians want to remind themselves about this painful history so are reluctant to see the film - but those who do are able to gain a better understanding of it.
Fortunately, the film pays as much attention to cinematography as it does to its subject. Through visual aesthetics, the director manages to produce a unique experience for viewers, and tense scenes that are emotionally resonant and engaging. There are some interesting choices of music and sounds that startle the audience from time to time, helping them feel the emotions right along with the characters. Camera movements and lighting help the viewer to feel present in the scenes, especially those taking place inside the mine. There is also nice play with visual metaphors and flashbacks that set the film apart from social realism. The actors’ strong performances further involve viewers, so that they can really feel what it was like to be those people, in those circumstances.