Gewaltbereitschaft und Sprachverzicht: Die filmische Verhandlung der Nahrungsmittelproduktion in Nikolaus Geyrhalters Unser täglich Brot

Sabine Nöllgen


This article explores the aesthetic and rhetorical strategies in the Austrian food documentary Unser täglich Brot (Our Daily Bread, 2005) by Nikolaus Geyrhalter, which effectively call into question a system of violence against non-human living things manifest in monoculture and factory farming. While most contemporary food documentaries heavily rely on both a voice-over and interview segments–in other words, linguistic tools–in order to put forward their particular rhetorical agenda, Unser täglich Brot exhibits a striking absence of both the spoken word and written language (such as intertitles and subtitles), resulting in a state of speechlessness that allows the film to position itself against a “monological system” (Val Plumwood) responsible for the profound and encompassing ecological crisis we are now experiencing. While Geyrhalter avoids the linguistic mode of representation altogether, he brings forward what food producers strive to hide from the consumer’s eye: the alien ways of a mechanical, industrialized food production that relies heavily on herbicides and insecticides, as well as the optimized mass slaughter of animals that leaves behind hung-up carcasses the ornamental quality of which Geyrhalter’s camera aims to capture as well. While the question of human guilt is evoked by the film’s title, a line from the Lord’s Prayer, which fully reads “Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins,” Unser täglich Brot refuses to make an outspoken judgment–a rhetorical decision that makes the film’s aesthetic strategies even more effective.


Keywords: film,  German, Geyrhalter, food production




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