Matter Out of Place

Matter Out of Place ★★★

Humanity trying to destroy – or, failing that, hide – the evidence of its own existence. Or, more ominously, human beings finding themselves thrust into the role of the sorcerer's apprentice, hoping against hope that he can stem the overwhelming tide he caused. There's a scene relatively early on – a five-minute shot of a Nepali landfill – that looks like a Bruegel painting in motion, filled with so much human detail (the impromptu repair of a stalling truck bed, the rearranging of a single trash bag on a mountain of them, the readjusting of a medical mask) that it's easily the most mesmerising sequence in a documentary since the cannabis dispensary discussion in City Hall. It's so good, in fact, that the film never quite reaches its heights again, so even though it remains an arresting procedural portrait of the Sisyphean task of waste disposal until the very end, the build-up of locations and techniques eventually loses some of its edge (before regaining some of it with the Burning Man sequence). Less might have been more here. Still, although I'm not sure how memorable the entire film will end up being in the long term, I do know that I will be thinking about that Nepal shot for a while yet.

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