Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"Ever Since the World Ended"

2001; directed by Calum Grant and Joshua Atesh Litle; written by Calum Grant

What everyone enjoys about end-of-the-world tales isn't watching the world wind down, but seeing how a small band of survivors rebuild it, and imagining what it would be like to be among them.

This is the fantasy that Ever Since the World Ended appeals to, explores, satisfies, and then improves upon. Presented as an amateur documentary, the film is set in San Francisco 12 years after an unnamed plague has eliminated most of the human race, leaving only 186 people within the city limits.

Choosing the documentary form was a brilliant move. Not only does it circumvent a lot of budgetary limitations, it allows the filmmakers to make the most of their special effects shots of eerily deserted streets, a decomposing Golden Gate Bridge, and a rusting ship in the harbor. It also gives viewers license to transform what might have been considered technical shortcomings in a big-budget film into a sense of immediacy and the feeling that what we're seeing is real.

The film opens with just enough individual recollections of the plague's history to set up the premise, then quickly introduces us to a world that is recognizable, yet radically different and sometimes humorous.

Bike mechanics are considered extremely valuable, as are those with a knack for sniffing out caches of liquor, prescription drugs and cigarettes inside the deserted city's thousands of abandoned homes and buildings. The last American Indian has grown weary of people expecting him to be some kind of mystic. Those who couldn't tolerate the demands of our current workaday world are now thriving. And everyone has lots and lots of time on their hands.

Yet people -- and their interactions with one another -- are much the same. They still enjoy dinners together, suffer petty jealousies, and engage in gossipy conversations, and it's within these very human relationships where much of the film's plot lives.

A single woman is ready to raise a child, and searching for a suitable sperm donor from the city's remaining men. A small group has decided to venture outside the city, and encounters a long-lost friend living wild in the branches of Muir Woods' canopy. A troubled community member who had left (or been chased out) has returned, presenting the survivors with the dilemma of keeping watch over him, banishing him again to become some other city's problem, or performing an outright execution.

The film's ending is both a surprise and surprisingly bittersweet, and I won't give it away here. But by the time we get there, this strange new world has become a place that looks like home. The only problem is, you have to go through hell to get there, and there's no guarantee you'll arrive. Better to watch the film and dream.


John Hornor said...

This looks great. I'm gonna put it on my NetFlix queue. That and Right At Your Front Door.

Ah, the apocalypse. It don't get better than that.

Unknown said...

Weird, it's listed as being released in 2001, 2006 and 2007, depending on who you believe. Makes you wonder when, exactly, this film was made.

C. Michael Cook said...

Yeah - release dates for this film were all over the place. I decided to go with the earliest, figuring that it had to be the one that was most likely right. (Maybe, the two others, are DVD release dates?)