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Conflict in Matewan John Sayles Matewan is a brilliant drama set detailing the conflict between coal miners and anti-union forces in 1920 Though the movie is fictional it is based squarely on the bitter and often bloody dispute that entrenched coal miners and operators against each other for more than 20 years One of the major problems was that coal was becoming less and less profitable to mine and it was the workers that were absorbing the market shortfalls Worker abuse was unhindered by much government interference and any inspectors that were sent to the mines were often paid off by the coal operators to ignore gross safety hazards Something had to change and this is where Sayles story of conflict begins Contrasting dark and light violence versus peaceful disobedience evil against good Sayles created war in Matewan Through sound cinematography and mise en scene the film develops the embattled characters and the surrounding revolution The exposition really establishes the mood of the film It begins by following a coughing coal miner covered in black soot as he crawls around in damp dark mountain shafts The miner is setting explosives and using verbal warnings to spread the word that dynamite is about to go off in the hole For the first few minutes of the film Sayles really establishes the claustrophobia of the mines The dark unsafe passages that make the audience immediately feel threatened by some unseen danger It is a battle of man versus nature down in the mines and the sweat soaked char-coated men no matter how much dynamite they set each day seem to be losing the war Danny Radnor played by Will Oldham passes the word that they have lowered the value of coal to 90 cents a ton Danny asks imploringly Sephus what we gonna do Rarely will we see the inside of a mine again until the conclusion of the film It only took through
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