The Working Class Goes to Heaven

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The Working Class Goes to Heaven (La classe operaia va in paradiso
The Working Class Goes to Heaven movie poster.jpg
original movie poster
Directed by Elio Petri
Produced by Ugo Tucci
Written by Ugo Pirro
Elio Petri
Starring Gian Maria Volontè
Mariangela Melato
Gino Pernice
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Luigi Kuveiller
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date
17 September 1971 (Italy)
11 May 1975 (New York City only)
Running time
125 min
Country Italy

The Working Class Goes to Heaven (Italian: La classe operaia va in paradiso; released in the US as Lulu the Tool) is a 1971 political drama film directed by Elio Petri. It depicts a factory worker's realisation of his own condition as a simple "tool" in the process of production and, implicitly, his struggle with the trade unions.

The film competed at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival, where it tied for the Grand Prix International du Festival, the highest honour. In Italy, it also won the David di Donatello for Best Film.


Lulu Massa is a reliable Stakhanovite worker at a factory, where the employees are told to care for and depend on their machines. However, Lulu is disliked by his colleagues, and outside of the factory, the employees see radical student agitators speak out against increased hours for labourers while wages remain stagnant. At home, Lulu lives with his lover Lidia and her son, but he always finds excuses to refuse Lidia sex.

One workday, Lulu loses a finger in a machine due to a work accident. Encouraged by the student protesters, he is drawn into the worker's rights movement, urging a strike action. Meanwhile, Lidia, refusing to live with a man with communist sympathies, packs her belongings and moves out with her son. The boy cries, but Lidia tells him Lulu never really cared for him, and would slap him from time to time. While the worker's assembly votes against lengthening the strike, Lulu's employer fires him for supporting the students. Lulu also attempts to have an affair with a female co-worker, finding having sex with her in an automobile is difficult.

Lidia and her boy return to the apartment, to find that Lulu has destroyed their inflatable Scrooge McDuck doll. Trade union members then arrive to inform Lulu that they have worked out a new deal with the employers on work regulations, in which they also won Lulu's job back.



The film was shot in an actual factory in Novara, Piedmont, with many of its employees serving as extras in the film.[1]


In The New York Times, A.H. Weiler reviewed the film under its U.S. release title Lulu the Tool, calling it "both fascinating and sobering".[2] In Film Quarterly, James Roy MacBean compared The Working Class Goes to Heaven to the prison drama The Brig in a "jarringly abrasive" portrayal of factory work and the quote "The factory is a prison".[3]

Clarke Fountain, for New York, said it rose above the level of a propaganda film, and deserved a place in Elio Petri's canon along with his 1970 Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion.[4] However, in 1986 author Mira Liehm referred to it as a "weaker" Petri film, and "heavy-handed".[5] In his 2015 Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin gave it three stars, declaring it a "Superbly directed, thought-provoking critique of capitalism".[6]


At Cannes, the film shared the Grand Prix International du Festival, the equivalent of the Palme d'Or of later years,[7] with The Mattei Affair.[2]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Cannes Film Festival 4 – 19 May 1972 Grand Prix International du Festival Elio Petri Won [8]
Special Mention Gian Maria Volontè Won [9]
David di Donatello 22 July 1972 Best Film Elio Petri Won [10]
Special David Mariangela Melato Won
Nastro d'Argento 1972 Best Actress Mariangela Melato Won [9]
Best Supporting Actor Salvo Randone Won


  1. ^ "La classe operaia va in paradiso. Retroscena di un film novarese". Associazione Museo Nazionale del Cinema. 2006. Retrieved 22 June 2017. 
  2. ^ a b "Screen: 'Lulu the Tool,' Italian Drama:Petri's Cynical View of the Worker's Lot". The New York Times. 12 May 1975. Retrieved 22 June 2017. 
  3. ^ MacBean, James Roy (Spring 1973). "The Working Class Goes Directly to Heaven, without Passing Go: Or, the Name of the Game Is Still Monopoly". Film Quarterly. 26 (3): 52. 
  4. ^ "The Working Class Goes to Heaven (La classe operaia va in paradiso)". New York. Retrieved 22 June 2017. 
  5. ^ Liehm, Mira (1986). Passion and Defiance: Italian Film from 1942 to the Present. University of California Press. p. 254. ISBN 0520908120. 
  6. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2014). Leonard Maltin's 2015 Movie Guide. Penguin. ISBN 0698183614. 
  7. ^ Staff (10 May 2016). "Cannes: All the Palme d'Or Winners, Ranked". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 7 June 2017. 
  8. ^ "LA CLASSE OPERAIA VA IN PARADISO". Retrieved 22 June 2017. 
  9. ^ a b "La classe operaia va in paradiso". Associazione Museo Nazionale del Cinema. 2005. Retrieved 22 June 2017. 
  10. ^ "CRONOLOGIA DEI PREMI DAVID DI DONATELLO". David di Donatello. Retrieved 27 June 2017. 

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