Étienne Lantier, a mechanic, loses his job in Lille one winter. He tramps the roads in search of work, and finally, through a chance encounter with Bonnemort, an old miner kept on as a surface worker, is taken on as a hercheur or haulage man in the team led by Bonnemort’s son Toussaint Maheu at one of the coal mines in Montsou in the département of the Nord, and is lodged in the Maheus’ house. Maheu’s daughter Catherine also works in the mine in Maheu’s team, as a hercheuse, a haulage woman. Lantier and Catherine are attracted to one another, but Catherine has another suitor, the coal cutter Chaval, and Chaval marries Catherine because Lantier fails to put forward his own suit. Chaval mistreats Catherine, in part through suspicion and jealousy of Lantier, resulting in fights between the two men. The company enforces changes in the way teams are paid which effectively lower their earnings. The miners, inspired by the vague knowledge of socialist ideas gained by Lantier during his earlier working experience, protest the changes, and receiving no response from the management, they strike. Chaval, mostly out of spite for Lantier and jealousy of his ascendancy with the miners, becomes a management spy. As the strike drags on, Chaval leads a group of miners to return to work, a group he forces Catherine to join. Learning of this treachery, the strikers cut the cables to the cages while the blacklegs are down the mine, forcing them to climb the emergency ladders to get out, and to run a gauntlet of the strikers when they emerge. Humiliated, Chaval denounces Lantier to the police, and Lantier has to go into hiding in a disused pit. Troops are called to quell the disorders, and during an attack by the miners on the mine director’s house, soldiers open fire on the strikers, killing Maheu among others. The strikers decide to return to work, led by Chaval. Reluctantly, Lantier joins them. The anarchist machinist Souvarine sabotages the waterproof cladding of the pit-shaft, and the mine is flooded while the miners are below. Many are drowned, but Lantier, Catherine and Chaval find themselves trapped by water in an old working. Led by the mine engineer Négrel and Maheu’s son Zacharie, a rescue attempt is made via the old pit. Zacharie is killed by a firedamp explosion in this attempt. Down in the mine, Lantier kills Chaval in a fight over food, and Catherine dies of starvation in Lantier’s arms, but Lantier is still alive when the rescuers break through. Once he has recovered from his ordeal, Lantier decides to leave to pursue a political career. He says goodbye to Maheu’s wife, who has herself become a haulage woman in the mine, and sets out for Paris.—uwfilmies.pbworks.com
Albert Capellani (23 August 1874 – 1931) was a French film director and screenwriter of the silent era. He directed 168 films between 1904 and 1922. His brother was the actor-sculptor Paul Capellani.—Wikipedia
In our annual poll, we pair our favorite new films of 2011 with older films seen in the same year to create fantastic double features.