Monday, June 17, 2019

ENDZEIT: EVER AFTER -- Carolina Hellsgård & Olivia Vieweg's lovely zombie collaboration

If the term lovely seems misplaced in describing a zombie movie, well, you've just got to see ENDZEIT: EVER AFTER to fully appreciate how oddly appealing and attractive is this new film directed by Carolina Hellsgård with a screenplay by Olivia Vieweg, from her own graphic novel.

Oh, sure, there are the requisite zombies running around, attacking the living and eating their flesh, but there's relatively little of this, compared with the usual genre movies -- and what there is is handled smartly, with some graphic subtlety and enough suspense and surprise to pass muster.

Ms Hellsgård (shown at right) and Ms Vieweg have certainly given the film a feminist slant, with its three main characters all women, the main two of which (Gro Swantje Kohlhof and Maja Lehrer, shown below, left and right, respectively) make an odd couple who must finally bond and help each other through some very trying times. Both the two characters and the actresses who play them seem nicely in sync with the movie's themes and arc. They play off each other very well and end up growing close to each other, just as they bind the audience firmly to their spirit and plight.

In addition to its feminism, the film offers a strong humanist slant -- even as it condemns humanity for the destruction of the earth. (Just as in the current South Korean Netflix series, Kingdom, think of these zombies as a kind of appropriate revenge upon the callous, unfeeling politicians and power brokers of our world, even though we never meet the bad guys up close, as we do in Kingdom.)

The story here is fairly simple and minimal. All of Germany (perhaps the entire world) has been destroyed by the zombie plague -- except for two cities evidently smart and fast enough to fortify themselves. From one of these -- in which anyone infected is immediately killed -- the two girls hope to escape to the other, in which a cure is still sought so that at least some of the infected may be spared.

During the girl's travels we get occasional zombie interference, brief but pleasing respites, some lovely and verdant scenery, and a good amount of time spent in the local forest, during which we meet the third important character. She is played by that crackling good Danish actress Trine Dyrholm (above, right, of Becoming Astrid, Nico 1988 and The Commune), and her character -- about which I will say little -- has to do with nature and the earth's ability to maybe care for itself in a way that may remind you a bit of last year's dour waste, Annihilation, but with little of that film's pomposity, ridiculous/endless special effects and millions-of-dollars budget.

Much of Endzeit's charm, I suspect, is due to its humble stance. The production design -- interiors and exteriors -- is terrific, clearly on quite a low budget, while the rest of the technical aspects are handled just as well.

I do wish that the final appearance of one of our three characters showed a bit more in the way of wear-and-tear, given what we only recently saw the poor girl have to endure. I know a happy ending is usually a help, but please. Perhaps the finale is meant to be like waking from a bad dream?

From Juno Films, running just 90 minutes and in German with English subtitles, Endzeit: Ever After opens this Friday, June 21, in New York City at the IFC Center. In Los Angeles, look for it at Laemmle theaters: on June 27 at the Ahrya Fine Arts, on June 28 at the Royal and Glendale, and on June 30 at the Playhouse 7. Other playdates? Can't find any listed. But even if you're not on our two coastal movie capitals, eventually this one ought to find its way onto home video/digital.

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