Do Not Expect Too Much Of The End of the World


Reviewed by: Nikola Jovic

Do Not Expect Too Much From The End Of The World
"The film engages in dialogue with the ‘81 film as a way of ideological critique of what were, and to an extent still are, the mechanisms of obfuscating reality." | Photo: Courtesy of London Film Festival

Just when we thought that Radu Jude’s naming scheme couldn’t get any more complicated with his previous narrative essayistic experiment — Bad Luck Banging Or Loony Porn — he has decided to amuse us with yet another film with a tongue-twister as its name. Do Not Expect Too Much Of The End of the World is Jude’s latest experimental comedy. which recently won a Special Jury Prize in the International Competition selection at the Locarno Film Festival. The film is also due to play at Toronto, London, and New York film festivals in the coming months.

The action opens with a message saying that the film we’re about to watch is a conversation, or rather a dialogue, with an older Romanian film Angela Moves On (1981). This dialogue unfolds in a sort of one-two rhythm where, as we’re introduced to the contemporary state of affairs, we are immediately presented with a similar situation from the 1981 film, inviting us to contrast the differences and similarities between the two.

Both films follow two Angelas’. Angela (Dorina Lazar), from the 1981 film, is a taxi driver, going about her business as usual on — what, of course, only appears to be — a typically idyllic and sunny day in the Bucharest of the Ceaușescu era. Yes, men may have some quippy remarks on account of her being a taxi driver, and yes her tyre may have gone flat, but all is played out in a spirit of good fun. At the opposite end of the specturm, there is modern-day Angela (Ilinca Manolache), the main character of the film — an overworked and sleep-deprived production assistant for an international company with the task of finding and interviewing perfect candidates for a promotional “educational” film about work-related accidents. As luck would have it, her work will bring her to the house of ‘81 Angela, whose son, Ovidiu (Ovidiu Pîrsan) had an accident while working overtime for the company modern Angela is representing, paralysing him from the waist down. On the one hand, he and his family need the money the company is offering for the video, but on the other hand, what they’re asking him to say for the cameras puts him in an position that means he is essentially admitting guilt for his accident, automatically absolving the company of any blame in the ongoing court case he has against them.

End Of The World continues many of the themes set up in Bad Luck Banging. Even before talking about the film form itself, the plots of both films involve the usage of social media, where people present different versions of themselves. While in Bad Luck Banging, wealthy people use social media to pass online content as the truth of the matter, this film deals with the working class and their relationship with such representations. In The End Of The World there is no concern for one's image because nothing matters. While the humour of Bad Luck Banging derived much of its power from the absurdity of the fake moralism of the elites, the humour of The End Of The World gets its power because of a complete lack of regard for anything. From Angela’s hobby of creating TikTok content under a male filter and a fake username of Bobitsa — an Andrew Tate-type, spreading misogynistic “red-pill sigma” messages (which is very much a heart of the film, hilariously performed by Ilinca Manolache) — to jokes about Godard’s assisted suicide and the appearance of Uwe Boll, making fun of both corporate elites and the working class etc. No one is safe here, which speaks of the chronic “flattening out” of the culture. The very title gives us the first clue. In a standard tentpole fare, “end of the world” is a standard currency, while here it’s nothing to write home about, boring like any other event.

In its dialogue with the ‘81 film, one notices that while both in the past, as well as in the present, propaganda is created to obfuscate reality, in the years past the facade was put up as a means of holding up a fake idyllic image. In the present time, the fake images characters put up are not out of keeping some semblances of nice reality but it’s either out of a profit motive, or just for the hell of it to feel something. That isn’t to say that Radu revels in this nihilism, on the contrary, everything comes out in this way because he cares too much.

The film engages in dialogue with the ‘81 film as a way of ideological critique of what were, and to an extent still are, the mechanisms of obfuscating reality. Scenes are not just replayed, they are stretched out, zoomed in, even corrected to show the censorship. Hungarian names forcefully changed, Arab and Romani families hiding on the very edges of the frames — reduced to mere pixelated blobs, treated like mistakes in a film — a cutaway shot of a wrench next to the car gearshift, probably played as a joke in the original film, but the viewer can only assume why a woman taxidriver would always need a wrench at arm's reach. This dialogue is further emphasised by the withdrawal of most of the means of manipulation; be it by using only non-diegetic sources of music, contrasting of black-and-white DSLR footage with old film in colour, opting for writing credits on paper as opposed to digital graphics, or even deliberately emphasising mismatching cuts so as to draw attention to the fact that we’re watching a film, but also to drive a point home — all film is manipulation, and that manipulation is hiding in the most mundane places.

Having said all of that, the rejection of the propagandistic manipulation of a typical narrative film comes at a cost leading the film to feel unbalanced and disjointed, making it seem like the plot kicks in over an hour into the film. Ilinca Manolache manages to make most of that time worthwhile while giving a striking and witty portrayal of sleep depravity, which is in itself a state where the sense of time is lost. All the digression might be considered as a playing field, where the viewer could uninterruptedly play with all the ideology criticism toys the film provided. And while the heavy load of ideological critique and references could be viewed in such a manner, one could also claim that the lack of development during the long stretches of the story makes not only Angela struggle to stay awake, but also challenges the very viewer himself to stop, him or herself, from falling asleep.

Reviewed on: 10 Sep 2023
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Overworked and underpaid, Angela drives around the city of Bucharest to film the casting for a 'safety at work video' commissioned by a multinational company. When one of the interviewees reveals the company’s liability in his accident, a scandal erupts.

Director: Radu Jude

Writer: Radu Jude

Starring: Ilinca Manolache, Ovidiu Pîrșan, Nina Hoss, Dorina Lazăr, László Miske, Katia Pascariu

Year: 2023

Runtime: 163 minutes

Country: Romania, Luxembourg, France, Croatia

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