1 9 7 0 (UK)
5 x 60 minute episodes
Under the guiding hand of Etienne Lantier (Mark Jones), a group of mineworkers are on strike for more money and better conditions, both of which are being denied by the management.
This BBC production was particularly strong in its creation of the atmosphere of the small mining village where Emile Zola’s story takes place. Especially good were the scenes in the mine itself, where the sweat and the coal dust appeared as real as the pit ponies and the coal in the trucks.
Zola’s point was that the men were treated no better than the pit ponies which dragged to the surface the results of the miners’ toil, and this animal-like quality of the miners’ predicament came across strongly. The theme was punched home most forcibly when Etienne and Maheu (Freddie Jones) arrived home literally collapsing with exhaustion, having narrowly escaped the police.
At this moment, one realised that what they were fighting for was not just better working conditions and more money, but the fundamental right to conduct their lives with dignity and freedom like real human beings.