Fred Wiseman, Adjustment and Work

Looking at Wiseman’s other film ventures, I found Adjustment and Work to be a particularly interesting documentary. The approach is similar to Follies, in that we are presented with a filmic narrative with the subjects speaking for themselves without the intermediary of an interviewer. This is something that I have also tried to adhere to, making the film producer disappear out of the frame. The subject matter is quite similar, since it deals with institutionalised others (or those deemed other by institutions). In this case we have people with mild disabilities (they are blind or deaf-mute) who are being given the chance to work. Since this is one of the areas I have identified as being particularly relevant in the disability debate, I watched with interest.

In a similar way to how the subjects in Follies undergo examination by a panel of experts, the fate of these workers is discussed by a panel of employers and social workers. There is an obvious breakdown in communication, since the social workers don’t understand why a worker would accept a post beneath his means. On the other hand, the employers don’t get why the workers do not seek higher responsibilities. The workers themselves are ready to jump at the first chance of employment, however, seeking the quickest way to get to work and off social security, since they are “tired of just dragging around“. The film looks at the kinds of work (especially blind) employees are engaged in and some of the difficulties they encounter. One of the main problems voiced by the employer is the fact that the employee has no ambition or perceptible career prospects – they could well be doing the same thing in 10 years’ time (which goes against capitalist work ethic). Although the film is not as risqué as Follies, it does reveal a similar failing of an institution to deal with the issue at hand.

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