“It’s not possible to be indifferent when someone died for delivering a hamburger.”

There are many lines like this in Les Délivrés, a documentary that explores the fight by France’s bicycle deliverypeople to resist their exploitation and to make their plight known in the public consciousness. No other line is quite such a gut-punch as that one, though. Damien, one of the delivery men, is outraged by the death of an Uber Eats deliverer who was killed in a traffic accident in an industrial area unsuitable for bike traffic. He died delivering a hamburger.

Les Délivrés is a searing indictment of unrestrained capitalism and its victims. The music for the film — a radical score oscillating between lively and contemplative themes — was composed by Maxime Dangles. Dangles has revealed a new album based upon the film, capturing the “alienation, stress, struggle and hope of the documentary’s protagonists” in a nine track album veering between techno, IDM and ambient music.

Dangles and director Thomas Grandrémy “have been friends for a long time,” Dangles explains. “We met at music events where he was working on video recording with Sourdoreille. I told him once that I would like to work more often on film music. So he proposed I should make the soundtrack for his documentary and I immediately accepted. I had carte blanche, he only gave me some key words which are in fact the titles of the tracks.”

Grandrémy only used “some parts of each track, here and there,” Dangles says. The film was aired on French TV but due to a contractual issue, it couldn’t be posted online for several years. A bit frustrated, they decided to create a live screening version, rewriting the documentary and the music with it. “The idea of the album,” Dangles says, “was born from there.”

The story of Les Délivrés is unfortunately universal — the conditions are not terribly different in any Western country right now where low-paid “gig economy” contractors are replacing salaried employees, leaving workers on an edge of constant anxiety and precariousness. Grandrémy makes the story personal through the struggles of delivery men Damien, Clément and Yoro in Nantes, Bordeaux and Paris protesting the conditions they work under.

Damien from Les Deliveres
Damien from Les Deliveres

There’s a great deal of outrage in this movie as there should be. One character describes how the mental health toll he suffers surpasses the damage that 60 hours of work per week (the amount required to earn the equivalent of a minimum wage) does to his body. Surveillance, for one thing, is constant. “We are always observed by restaurateurs, the application constantly tracks us. It brings you nightmares — you wake up in the middle of the night wondering if you haven’t missed your pickup.”

Prior to working on the film, Maxime Dangles (who has previously released music on Kompakt, Bedrock and Herzblut in his career) says he wasn’t too familiar with the plight of this new underclass being carved out of the labor force. “I had never used those platforms on my own,” he says. “Personally, I don’t mind the service at all, I even find it useful for customers who don’t have the time and for restaurant owners who need customers. It also creates jobs.

“However, it is the economic system behind it that needs to be reviewed. The deliverers have no social protection, are extremely badly paid and live with a crazy pressure because of how the app works. Everyone is screwed without having any say in the matter: the delivery driver, the restaurant owner and the customer. Everything benefits the platform, which also continues to receive money from big investors to develop even further, maybe in order to sell, one day, their company.

“And I haven’t even talked about the exploitation of undocumented workers… It’s sickening. Bon appétit…”

Maxime Dangles debuted his new live performance at Astropolis’ Winter edition on February 11 with Dylan Cote. His Les Délivrés is out now on the label Lifeguards. All profits from the album will be donated to Utopia 56, a humanitarian association that helps exiled people and anyone in distress in France.