Daily Archives: Sunday, March 31, 2024

  • Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World   Radu Jude (ROM; 2023)

    Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World   Radu Jude (ROM; 2023) Ilinka Manolache

    Viewed Film Forum NYC 18th March 2024; ticket $14

    one fast lady

    In the opening sequence of Jude’s ‘Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World…’ (DNETM) we see protagonist Angela awakened by her alarm, getting up, walking out of frame to visit the toilet returning naked into frame and getting dressed. We see a core and quintessentially human aspect of life represented in her slow movements out of sleep, out of her nakedness into her clothes. These few moments at the start of Angela’s day are simply a prelude to her entrapment in a life as a slave of turbocharged capitalism subject to the accelerating forces of economic materialism.

    Jude is using film to expose in particular the squalor of existence in contemporary Romania, but in general laying bare the ugly reality of life and work in the 21st century global economy dominated by a small number of huge companies. But like Godard, Jude makes films to have fun, unconstrained by the ridiculous production demands of story spectacle and spookies. He just has something to say. Jude’s DNETM is scripted from a particular political space, a space of joyously seeing through the bullshit lies and hypocrisy characteristic of this society.

    Jude’s film unequivocally depicts life in post communist Romania where the diktat of Capitalism shapes people’s daily experiences penetrating their psychic responses to society and the world around them; the substitution of the hammer and sickle by Coca Cola et al, the sudden destabilising collapse of Romanian notional ‘collective’ ownership and its replacement by ‘Corporate’ entities.

    Life mutilation death – everything’s a racket.

    DNETM has a structure that in writing is complex to describe. But film’s strength as a medium is the possibility of using its resources: juxtaposition, insertion, superimposition, split image and track, montage, text etc. to create the transmission of homogenous communication, to suggest linkage and understanding by simple manipulation of these inputs. DNETM’s structure intercuts the main story of Angela’s day (shot in black and white, with a look suggestive of a comic strip) in which she is working on a ‘safety at work video’ being made by a Bucharest film production company; with a 1981 Romanian movie (shot in soft colour suggesting a feminine aura) about a woman taxi driver (also called Angela); and with protagonist Angela’s ‘TikTok’ alter ego as misogynist Andrew Tate. These sections are further intercut with Jude’s own collection of quotes and a montage comprising the memorial crosses of some of the hundreds killed in car crashes on one specific road in Romania.  

    Before thinking about Jude’s use of the parallel stories of the two Angelas, it’s interesting to look at the contrast between his scripting of Katia in ‘Bad Luck Banging’ and Angela’s scenario in DNETM. In ‘Bad Luck..’ Katia walks through Bucharest. She walks, one foot in front of another. Her walk is permeated by her anxiety and interspersed with taking and making mobile calls. It’s not an easy walk because she has been summoned to attend the school where she teaches to explain her behaviour. But it’s a walk for all that; the pace is human and the life in the city is seen and experienced, allowing her to interact with the streets and the people. Cut to DNETM. No one walks. Life has accelerated. Angela drives. Everyone drives. The car has become a crucible in which the drivers are subjected to concentrated alchemical forces that transform them into human ‘gold’ for their masters. The roads and highways Angela navigates become vectors of intensity in which passage is characterised by the alternation of juddering advance and ferocious acceleration. Driving is dehumanised. It’s a Hobbesian war of all against all, a parody of Capitalism itself.   To drive is an endless battle with the road other vehicles other drivers the weather and fatigue; for Angela it’s punctuated by the casual vicious sexist snarls spat at her out by male drivers as they pull up alongside her in the traffic.

    The other distinct difference between the experience of Jude’s two female leads, Katia and Angela, is that throughout Bad Luck Banging, Katia is engaged in a constant dialogue/debate about her behaviour and how she should be seen and judged. For Angela there’s no debate. She may rebel against it in internalised violent self hating, but her position of one of complete menial subservience, she exists to either obey or engage in demeaning but self aware protective self censorship. Angela retains an essential humanity despite having the shit kicked out of her, but it’s difficult to see how she can avoid slipping down into the black hole of Bucharest’s engained sexism and its drug of self induced nihilistic indifference.

    Back to cars for a moment. Except for Jude’s long last shot, in the main part of the film the force field of the automobile dominates Jude’s black and white visuals. DNETM is a sort of road movie. Road movies in the American tradition usually have something to do with ego, with a testing of the absolute limits of self as an experiential subject. Predictably US road films usually end with death, as the protagonists run out of road and there is no where left for ego to go. In contrast Iranian road movies are characterised as extensions of the self, the automobile used as a device for reaching out to and finding others, an expanding of the boundaries of ego. Jude’s movie is the antithesis of this.  Fuelled by demented Capitalism drivers are trapped in a self referential nightmare where they experience the phantoms and spectres of their own distorted anxiety and terror.  

    The intercutting by Jude of an 1981 Romanian movie about a woman taxi driver gives the contrast. Jude is no apologist for Ceausescu’s regime, its oppression and its gratuitous acts of destruction, but in this period Romania had not moved into the stage of late capitalist acceleration. The car had not become a trap. In this section for its female driver Angela, her car, the taxi, is simply a means to make a living. She is subjected to casual male sexism, but the sexist comments aren’t screamed obscenities. They are more suggestive and in a form that can at least broker dialogue. The pace of the human interactions, of the movement of the taxi about the city, are shot in mellow colour signifying a gentler more forgiving emotional and physical environment than the present day black and white comic strip. The language in the 1981 movie is mediated by observation and dialogue; in the main section of DNETM language is mostly reduced to manipulation or particularly in the TikTok alter ago section, to expressive destructive misogynist violence.

    My feeling is that Jude overloads his film, there is too much content, content that is overly repetitive and in repetition loses cogency. His constant stream of ‘quotes’ sometimes indicate a desire to show off his cleverness. But these are personal judgements. It may be that this excess of content is related to Jude’s intention to subject his audience to an ‘experience’ in the film itself. This is exemplified in the long last shot of some perhaps 25 minute duration (?), in which a man in a wheelchair accompanied by his family, is filmed recounting his industrial injury for the work safety video. Of course as the subject and his family are put through the mill, we see that the filming is a dishonest manipulative fraudulent exercise. The man in the wheelchair is a poor innocent sap ripe for exploitation. So during this section, which is rather scrappily played out, the audience is subjected to a similar long enervating experience to that of the group being filmed.

    Like it or not we get to understand something of what it is like to be screwed in Romania today.

    adrin neatrour