TIFF 2023 | Working Class Goes to Hell (Mladen Đorđević, Serbia/Greece/Bulgaria/Montenegro/Croatia/ Romania) — Midnight Madness

By Gabrielle Marceau 

Mladen Đorđević’s Working Class Goes to Hell wears its title more literally than the 1971 Italian satire, The Working Class Goes to Heaven, it references. While his protagonists don’t get led into the nether world à la The House that Jack Built (2018), Đorđević’s  slow-burn quasi-horror about a group of concerned citizens in a small Serbian town lured into satanic practices culminates with a vision of hell on earth, complete with hot pink lighting, euro-pop, and light-up devil horns. 

Đorđević’s allegorical portrait of contemporary life in the Balkans also has a few genuinely upsetting images and effectively captures the feeling of sliding slowly towards chaos, as a group of locals—who have just lost a court case against the company they believe set fire to its own factory, killing nine workers—willingly hitch their hopes to the satanic preacher and charismatic scumbag, Mija (Leon Lučev). And it’s refreshing that the film’s early moody tone (shots of abandoned buildings, a dusty family photo, sounds coming from dark hallways) gives way to something much more assertive (I’m thinking of a scene with a sickle, a hammer, and an unfortunate limb). For all of these virtues, though, the film doesn’t fully commit to the chaos and violence it suggests, instead cutting us off before the cathartic, and truly condemnable, act is done—letting us off a few stops short of hell.