Review of Joe Hill (1971)

Moving picture, 114 minutes

Seen in 2023.

The US career of Swedish-born activist Joel Emmanuel Hägglund.

I feel that this film could easily have been very good, but director Widerberg wasn’t up to it on this budget. His editing is particularly weak, both in its details and in the basic structure of the work. The episodic picaresque helps Widerberg’s portrayal of US capitalism as the IWW understood it: Continuous in space under uniform laws. However, the structure hurts the ambition of a biopic. Perhaps in an attempt to center the biography of the man towards the end, Widerberg puts in a great deal of work on Hill’s arrest, trial and execution, but that doesn’t work. The court drama derails into a hagiography that is contradictory to Hill’s mockery of Christianity and barely relevant to his life, production, or politics.

moving picture fiction