Western Deep journeys into the physical interior of the deepest gold mine in the world, the Tautona mines near Johannesburg in South Africa. McQueen takes the viewer into the darkness and claustrophobia of the lifts and shafts, the dust and the noise of the working faces.
A lift descends blindly, goes miles underground, carrying its workers - and us with them - like damned men. We long for light - occasionally there's a flash of metal, a grid like a turquoise waffle sliding by in the dark. – Kate Kellaway, The Observer, 6 October 2002.
Three and a half kilometres underground, the mines represent the deepest anyone has been into the core of the Earth. Working at such deep levels has serious and potentially dangerous consequences for the miners. The Western Deep mines had been functioning under the same management since apartheid at the time of filming. In the depths of the mine the predominantly black miners are shown performing supervised exercises, stepping up and down as red buzzers blare above their heads. Some of them can barely move.
The strength and stoicism of the miners indicates the capacity of people to survive in extreme environments, and in this way relates albeit paradoxically to the Caribs’ bravery and defiance
Below are stills from the film Western Deep.