TIFF 2023: Working Class Goes to Hell

Directed by: Mladen Đorđević
Distributed by: TBD

Written by Christopher Cross


Money is the root of all evil, but if you’re not attentive, all roads will lead to capitalism in Mladen Đorđević’s “Working Class Goes to Hell.” A satire imbued with the power of Satan, Đorđević’s timely reflection on the schism between the power of labor unions and the unyielding desire to get rich quickly is an absurd and entertaining glimpse at the neverending struggle for justice. Simultaneously bleak and hilarious, “Working Class Goes to Hell” takes a firm stance and rides it to a chaotic and uproarious conclusion underscored by the stark realities of a power-hungry world.

A labor union within a small Balkan town has become exhausted with trying to find justice for those lost in a tragic fire that took the lives of their friends and made the factory the town depends on for financial stability too costly to repair. The union is ignored as the rest of the town makes way for an exciting new “hotel” to help put the town on the map – while officially a hotel, it will attract businessmen and the elite and act more as a brothel that will bring new problems. As Ceca’s (Tamara Krcunovic) confidence in seeking reparations wanes, she becomes involved with one of the newest members of their union, Mija (Leon Lucev), whose past “group therapy” sessions may be able to bring peace to the unease felt by the rest of the union.

It’s not long until “Working Class Goes to Hell” begins uncovering what those group therapy sessions contained, and a mysterious figure begins roaming the town streets. Đorđević covers the town in a grim atmosphere, where light rarely appears even in the daytime, and no one is happy. They crack jokes in the face of despair, but they desperately seek an answer to their problems, and Mija seizes the opportunity for power and attention by quickly turning them towards the dark arts. Rituals and sacrifices now become a part of the day-to-day for the labor union as they explore a new system of power and bend it to fit their desires.

There’s a catharsis to finding a probable path that might save the town – even if it means selling your soul – and it’s felt immensely throughout the union. What’s unfortunate about “Working Class Goes to Hell” is that it finds its hook early on and very slowly fleshes out a singular message of greed and corruption taking root in society, ultimately coloring how we make decisions. It can often feel like the screenplay is spinning its tires. It’s not until the final act that the film lets loose with its premise and, through all of the chaos, finds the potency of collective power in the face of embedded ideals. 

Đorđević’s dark sense of humor acts as the film’s beating heart, recognizing that one system of power is equal to many others. It’s a screenplay that prods at the absurdity of capitalism by swapping it out with the worship of the devil. Inherently fascinating in the duality it portrays, “Working Class Goes to Hell” is at its strongest when it points the lens back at itself and tries to make the connections between what the protagonists deem as right and what they are fighting against. The humor is derived from noticing those parallels, and by the time it reaches its climax, it revels in the analog it has created – leaving behind a world that seems improved but doesn’t necessarily feel better.

“Working Class Goes to Hell” Trailer

Christopher Cross is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Simon Fraser University. You can find more of his writing on his website and follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Substack, or Letterboxd for more of his thoughts.

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