Waste on the shores, waste on the mountains. On ocean floors and deep down in the earth. MATTER OUT OF PLACE is a film about rubbish, which has spread across the world, to the most remote corners of the planet. Nikolaus Geyrhalter follows the traces of our rubbish across the planet and sheds light on the endless struggle of people to gain control over the vast quantities of waste.
An endless line of trucks filled to the brim with garbage make their way to a landfill somewhere in South Asia. Their loads are piled onto a heap whose height rivals the verdant hills all around. The sight of this mountain of refuse invites a comparative cut to a peak in the Alps, where in the distance skiers can be seen crossing the pristine snow. From the top of the ski resort, a garbage truck is carried underneath a cable car to the village below, floating across the air in an image of surreal poetry. From there, the film travels to a luxury resort in the tropics, where the postcard scenery is spoiled by masses of plastic washing up among the palm trees.
Rather than point his finger, Geyrhalter focuses on the people who dedicate themselves to cleaning up the planet: from waste management companies in Western Europe; to volunteer organizations in the Balkans; to a lone South Asian man collecting trash door-to-door with his hand-pulled rickshaw; to scuba divers retrieving trash from the bottom of the ocean. This daisy chain around the world renders our responsibility and interconnectedness inescapable, but whether the film represents a call to action or presages the coming apocalypse is left for each of us to decide.