Manufactured Landscapes is a surprisingly good piece about photographer Edward Burtynsky's documentation of global production and its effects on the planet. Initially I felt like I might be watching a mark off of the film Baraka (Ron Fricke, 1992) one of my personal favorites, however as it progresses through romanticized shots of tonka truck manufacturing and big wheel strip mining it began to define itself in slightly different terms.
Opening with a long rolling dolly shot of a giant production plant in China and through what Burntynsky says are, “the largest industrial incursions I could find" the piece does a good job of grabbing your visual attention and putting you in a place to listen. Still photos of changed landscapes, wide zooms of mass pollution, and sweeping pans displaying change coming from the hand of humans make you feel like a giant looking down on an anthill.
Discarded motherboards that look something like a strange pile of blue-green haze are the opening pages to the middle of the film. Up to this point we moved slowly through the story building the concept, but now with the show of technological debris, it starts to become more poignant. The burning, striping, and discarding of these technological recyclables into unmanaged locations where computer parts were left to pollute the waterways and clutter the landscape, was something that stuck out and I started to feel somewhat misguided by the likable term “recyclable goods”. Furthering the point of recylables by thumbing through massive container ship yards and then full circle to seeing them laying in muddy graves where they are torn apart for scraps. It was overwhelming to see both our great accomplishments and there demise.
Closing it out, Burtynsky doesn't point a finger. Rather he leaves you wondering in awe at how much bigger it is than yourself and what can we do to improve it. Seeing the mountain size gashes in landscapes, the colossal carcasses of container ships, and an endless numbers of crane arms working their piles of dirt makes ones mind reel. His message points to our course on the planet, the path we have chosen, and the effects it is having and leaves you to decide what to do.