Directed by: Radu Jude
Distributed by: Mubi
Written by Patrick Hao
The ethos of Radu Jude’s newest film is right in the title: “Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World.” Jude’s trek across Bucharest through the eyes of Angela (Ilinca Manolache), an overworked production assistant on a mission to locate a handicapped worker willing to cite the reason for their injuries on their own failure to take workplace precautions for a mere €500 pittance, presents the absurd and almost dystopic as oh so ordinary. Like a Kiarostami film, most of the film is a series of encounters Angela has from injured laborers, cold executives who would rather sleep than work, rude drivers, and even schlock German director Uwe Bol, in a surprisingly sweet performance.
Each interaction is stuffed with dense satire whose Romanian/European specificity is impossible to fully appreciate as an American but so recognizable as a human of this world. The film is truly a collage that doesn’t fully come together until it is fully consumed. Jude’s film has always been essayistic in form. In “End of the World,” he intersperses his film with scenes from the influential 1981 film by Lucian Bratu, “Angela Goes On,” about a female taxi driver’s day during the Communist regime. The commentary is straight forward: “the more things change, the more things stay the same.” But, beyond that, to equate the oppression of Cold War Communism Classic™ with the modern day capitalism of Europe is cutting.
Angela’s way to escape from the mounting pressures of life is to retreat into the persona of Bobita, a vulgar men’s man. Using a cheap filter giving Angela a bald head and black oiled beard, she posts on TikTok as this persona spewing vulgar misogyny and blatant racism in the guise of “parody” (Angela as Bobita compares herself to Charlie Hebdo at one point). She takes on the persona of oppressors and is going viral for it.
The ultimate goal for Angela’s unnamed company is to film a safety at work video in which the worker takes the blame for any workplace accident. The film culminates in a forty-minute one-take of the filming of the video. The man they find, Ovidiu (Ovidiu Pîrsan), is paralyzed from the waist down and is elegiacally surrounded by his family while the beam that caused his incident is framed behind him. The shoot keeps going as the company coaches the Ovidiu until he is reduced to a literal voiceless participant. Ironically they use a Bob Dylan technique, a symbol of counterculture, to convey the corporate propaganda.
Unlike other contemporary films trying to speak to the “times,” Jude is so incisive and precise with his messaging without feeling like he sledgehammering you in the head. He is not pausing for “clap-ughter.” Yet, the filmmaking is playful and light, as it oscillates between 16mm black and white to digital to the old film stock of “Angela Goes On.” The long runtime allows for purposeful tangents, giving the film a Don DeLillo novelistic quality, an author Jude openly cites in his end credits. It is good to know that as we are heading towards the end of the world, there are movies like “Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World” that acknowledge how absurd it all is.
“Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World” Trailer