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 byElio Petri
Written byUgo Pirro
Elio Petri
Produced byUgo Tucci
StarringGian Maria Volonté
Mariangela Melato
Gino Pernice
CinematographyLuigi Kuveiller
Music byEnnio Morricone
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release dates
17 September 1971 (Italy)
11 May 1975 (New York City only)
Running time
125 minutes[1]

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 with The Mattei Affair for the Grand Prix International du Festival, the festival's highest honour. In Italy, it also won the David di Donatello for Best Film.


Lulu Massa is a highly productive worker at a factory paying piece work but is disliked by his colleagues as his efficiency is used by management to justify their demands for higher output. While employees are told to care for and rely on their machines, they see radical students outside the factory campaigning for higher pay rates and less work. Lulu lives with Lidia and her son. He puts his lack of interest in sex with her down to the pressures of the job.

Lulu loses a finger in a work accident, which the workers blame on the faster times. Shocked, he adopts the students' analysis and takes strike action to end piece work, against the unions' policy, which is for simply an increase in piece work rates.

Lulu pursues an affair with a female co-worker but finds that having sex with her in an automobile is difficult. Lidia, unhappy with his new far left sympathies, moves out with her son, who cries, but is told that Lulu never really cared for him, and reminded that Lulu would slap him occasionally.

When the employees go back to work, Lulu is fired for promoting the students' extremist views. Lidia and her boy return to the apartment, to find that Lulu has destroyed their inflatable Scrooge McDuck doll. Syndicalists arrive to inform Lulu that they have agreed a deal with the employers on work regulations and won Lulu's job back.


Gian Maria Volonté as Lulù.


The film was shot in a factory in Novara, Piedmont, with many of its personnel serving as extras in the film.[2]


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".[3] 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".[4]

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.[5] However, in 1986 author Mira Liehm referred to it as a "weaker" Petri film, and "heavy-handed".[6] In his 2015 Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin gave it three stars, declaring it a "Superbly directed, thought-provoking critique of capitalism".[7]


At Cannes, the film shared the Grand Prix International du Festival, the equivalent of the Palme d'Or of later years,[8] with The Mattei Affair.[3]

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 [9]
Special Mention Gian Maria Volonté Won [10]
David di Donatello 22 July 1972 Best Film Elio Petri Won [11]
Special David Mariangela Melato Won
Nastro d'Argento 1972 Best Actress Won [10]
Best Supporting Actor Salvo Randone Won


  1. ^ Zaniello, Tom (2018). Working Stiffs, Union Maids, Reds, and Riffraff: An Expanded Guide to Films About Labor. Cornell University Press. p. 416. ISBN 978-1501711190.
  2. ^ "La classe operaia va in paradiso. Retroscena di un film novarese". Associazione Museo Nazionale del Cinema. 2006. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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): 52–58. doi:10.2307/1211346. JSTOR 1211346.
  5. ^ "The Working Class Goes to Heaven (La classe operaia va in paradiso)". New York. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  6. ^ Liehm, Mira (1986). Passion and Defiance: Italian Film from 1942 to the Present. University of California Press. p. 254. ISBN 0520908120.
  7. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2014). Leonard Maltin's 2015 Movie Guide. Penguin. ISBN 978-0698183612.
  8. ^ Staff (10 May 2016). "Cannes: All the Palme d'Or Winners, Ranked". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  9. ^ "La Classe Operaia Va In Paradiso". Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  10. ^ a b "La classe operaia va in paradiso". Associazione Museo Nazionale del Cinema. 2005. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  11. ^ "Cronologia Dei Premi David Di Donatello". David di Donatello. Retrieved 27 June 2017.