04 February 2010

The Quiet Earth

New Zealand – 1985
Director – Geoff Murphy
CBS/FOX Video, 1986, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 31 minutes

This may be the first post-apocalypse film in which the apocalypse isn’t cataclysmic, at least not in the nuclear holocaust/return of Christ sense. Although it does in fact begin immediately post-apocalypse, for some time it is not clear that there was in fact an apocalypse at all. This key question persists for the entire film; was there an apocalypse, and if so what was it? Here our protagonist (Bruno Lawrence) simply wakes up in the morning to find a world devoid of people. All of them have simply vanished at the same time, in the middle of whatever it was they were doing at that instant; flying aircraft, driving, crapping, making coffee. He proceeds to go very nearly ape-shit.

But is there ever a post-apocalypse movie that doesn’t succumb to the need for secondary characters? Is there any film about isolation or solitude that doesn’t? Once our protagonist meets a woman, Joanne, and then another man, one can’t help but shake the feeling that this is supposed to be a subtle sci-fi sociology lesson. Being the only three people on Earth reduces them to a primitive uncivilized survival situation, a textbook experiment in inter-gender socialization. The woman is a vacillating opportunist, looking for the best deal and changing her mind on a moment by moment basis. The rest is a philosophical and/or psychological lesson about the duality of man. Does the intellectual archetype offer the most attractive options for the future, or is it the physical, warrior type? Which is the true apocalypse; the potential disaster of scientific achievement, or the violent barbarity of hierarchical tribalism? The whole thing begs the further intriguing question; how do you define apocalypse?

Here's The Quiet Earth trailer from TkrB via YouTube. While you're there, check out the Saturn rising sequence, it's cool.

1 comment:

Crankenstien said...

i just saw bruno lawrence in Smash Palace which was pretty cool.