It’s time for a subject that doesn’t get enough attention on German Joys: industrial safety.
Yesterday I watched Staplerfahrer Klaus: Der Erste Arbeitstag (‘Forklift Driver Klaus – The First Day on the Job’), a 10-minute long industrial-safety film directed by Jörg Wagner and Stefan Prehn. Forklift Driver Klaus opens in an office of a warehouse complex in some industrial suburb of a German city. All the forklift driver trainees are assembled; they’ve all passed their test, and all receive a badge signifying that yes, they too may join "the 37,000 specially-trained people in Germany who can rightly call themselves forklift drivers."
The camera focusses on Klaus, a cheerful, innocent-looking blond-haired young man, beaming with pride as the firm’s president pins his forklift-driver badge onto the lapel of his blue work overalls. Accompanied by peppy, burbling industrial-training-film music, Klaus walks confidently to his designated forklift and puts it through an initial safety inspection. Everything works. Klaus is about to start his new career as a forklift driver!
A near-accident at the warehouse entrance isn’t Klaus’ fault, it’s the fault of the foolish pedestrian who ignored the sign clearly marking separate paths for motorized and pedestrian traffic. Unfortunately, Klaus cannot so easily be absolved of blame for the series of "cruel but informative accidents" (to quote the film’s English-language website) that happen next.
As a favor to another worker, Klaus hoists him up on his forklift. He ignores his industrial-safety conscience (embodied by the voice-over actor Egon Hoegen), which tells him this is a bad idea. Sure enough, the poor guy loses his footing, and falls to his death. Then Klaus fails to notice a knife perched insecurely on the edge of a box, which plummets into the brain of another worker. Fortunately, this fellow’s quite resilient — he just breaks off the projecting portion of the knife and staggers off to lunch.
You’d think Klaus would have learned his lesson by now, but sadly, he hasn’t. Again violating clear safety instructions, Klaus lets a colleague — not "a factory-qualified mechanic" — repair the engine of his forklift. As soon as Klaus turns to key to check whether the repair works, we hear the sickening crunch that can mean only one thing: hands being hacked off and ground into meat by a forklift engine. "No Hands Günther," (Till Huster), stares uncomprehendingly at his stumps, before they begin spurting blood everywhere. An even worse fate awaits "Bisected Herbert" (Dieter Dost), when Klaus forgets to securely fasten a razor-sharp metal sheet to the front of his forklift.
Forklift Driver Klaus reaches its gory denouement when Klaus ventures — where else? — into the chainsaw section of the warehouse. After many further horrifying accidents, divine justice finally reaches Klaus himself: one of the two screaming, gesticulating, men impaled on the front of Klaus’ forklift — the worker with the chainsaw — inadvertently causes Klaus to be decapitated. The film ends with the screaming men being driven by Klaus’ headless, blood-spurting corpse into a glorious sunset.
Forklift Driver Klaus is an important movie, but, as you might guess, not one for the whole family.* The film remains impeccably loyal to the safety-film genre: the grainy, late-70s visual texture; the chirpy music; the gravelly-voiced, cautionary voice-over; and the animated interludes displaying proper forklift-handling technique. There’s an English version of the website, but I can’t tell whether there’s an English version of the movie. If not, I hereby volunteer my services as a translator.
If it saves just one forklift-operator’s life, it’ll be worth it.
* The DVD contains plenty of bonus material, including an interview with the two young directors. The highlight of the interview is the story of how the directors found their filming location. Of course, they told the warehouse owners they approached that they were making an, er, "industrial safety film." One owner finally agreed, and shooting was scheduled for Easter, when the directors assumed they would have the warehouse to themselves. However, the boss had put signs up all over the warehouse inviting workers to come watch the making of the "industrial safety film." The son of the warehouse owner showed up just as the two screaming, impaled men were being driven out of the warehouse. Fortunately, he understood the importance of the project, and became so involved that he ended up playing Klaus’ headless, blood-spurting body!