Published Apr 27, 2013Auctioneer and mortician Dale Menzak is one of the few moderately affluent members of a rural Alberta farming community. Selling off machinery and tools from the various local agriculture businesses eventually succumbing to the increased industrialization of farming, he's seen alone at the local Chinese restaurant where his beef—now dramatically decreased in value—is served to the handful of people that can afford the luxury of eating out.
Other members of the community have taken on part-time jobs in avenues like telephone IT support to help make ends meet when not struggling to keep together antiquated farm equipment in an effort to delay the inevitable.
Hans Olson's metaphors and image juxtapositions aren't particularly subtle. In one scene, he follows a shot of coffins with a line-up of faulty machinery that owners cannot afford to repair. Other times, he deliberately blends images of rural life with amplified recordings of internet support calls, reiterating the graveyard sentiment of honest work dying out to modern technology, environmental change and the rapid pace of city life.
His subjects verbalize the horrors of living in congested urban locales, noting the noise, anonymity and generalized lack of humanity. And in matching these fears with gorgeously framed, extended takes of wide open skies and rolling fields, he draws a parallel between death and freedom that speaks for itself.
The major issue with The Auctioneer is that beyond these heavy-handed metaphors and some lush cinematography, there's very little to maintain interest. Aside from a very small parade with a dwindling number of participants, the footage is mostly repetitive, jumping from an auction to a Chinese restaurant to farm equipment repair on a tedious, mostly protracted, loop.
Since the message and intent of Olson's documentary is easily determined within moments of the opening scene, the audience is left dwelling on the same point repeatedly, which, while entirely valid, isn't exactly new territory within the landscape of Canadian docs. This makes for a rather humdrum, uninspiring viewing experience that is almost immediately forgettable. (NFB)