Vague Visages’ Do Not Expect Too Much of the End of the World review contains minor spoilers. Radu Jude’s 2023 movie features Nina Hoss, Uwe Boll and Katia Pascariu. Check out the VV home page for more film reviews, along with cast/character summaries, streaming guides and complete soundtrack song listings.
For a film that’s unrelenting in its pace and tone, much of Radu Jude’s Do Not Expect Too Much of the End of the World unfolds in the interstitial moments between jobs, conversations and frenzied social media updates. The writer-director trains the camera on Angela (Ilinca Manolache), an overworked PA-turned-Instagram-star, as she drives through Bucharest interviewing injured employees to be featured in a film promoting factory safety. The protagonist alternately drifts off at the wheel and screams out the window, answering harried calls from her boss in the pauses between. But really, Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World is held together by the flurry of non-expressions which cross Angela’s profile.
Within the relatively simple and contained story of Do Not Expect Too Much of the End of the World are a series of riveting, prickly questions, imploring the audience to ascertain meaningful from meaningless. No recent film has more creatively expressed the futile distinction between foreground and background. Things play out on various levels, quietly drawing eyes away from the center of the screen, actions playing in the corner and blurring on the edges. This is partly achieved by Jude’s crude editing of the 1981 Lucian Bratu film Angela Moves On, spliced into the main plot and mirroring Angela’s exhausted driving. By zooming in and slowing down certain innocuous reactions, the filmmaker re-contextualizes the action of Angela Moves On, coloring it in a haunted, gauzy filter. What was once a light-hearted, early-80s jaunt through Bucharest becomes a menacingly rendered reflection on clawing one’s way across unforgiving space.
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It is in this dissonance between images that a picture of contemporary life develops in Do Not Expect Too Much of the End of the World, soundtracked by a cacophony of honking horns and conflicting instructions. Jude keeps coming up with new and creative ways to grapple with this modernity. At one point, the camera rests on a model diorama as an anonymous manager explains the impending restructuring of Angela’s family’s graveyard; a version of the city that is horribly still and unpliable. It is then interrupted by a shot of the real cityscape, smudged and buzzing with life. Everyone is angrily grappling for space, nudging people out of lanes and complaining while they do so. Meanwhile, the plasticised future looms menacingly, taking up more and more room. When the now elderly star of Angela Moves On (Dorina Lazar)meets Angela, she tentatively admits that “I couldn’t drive through this.”
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In its final act, Do Not Expect Too Much of the End of the World freezes in its tracks, held at a single shot of a wheelchair-bound employee and his family, wrestling through the details of his at-work accident for a camera crew. Slowly, these victims are drenched in a steady drizzle of rain, being strong armed by an insistent crew into rescinding key details of their story. Wrestling this film from its ferocious progression is a bold move, one that reimagines the classic Grecian odyssey as something that doesn’t conclude with a final physical battle, but with the painful litigation of corporate-approved language.
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Once the audience adapts to Do Not Expect Too Much of the End of the World’s ragged texture and uncommon structure, there is much to be gleaned from its deeply human outlook. Jude has used his cult reputation to carve out an anti-establishment space, one that nurses films too weird and uneven to appeal to mainstream studios. Do Not Expect Too Much of the End of the World is a jolt of energy, one that bounds forward — always a few leaps ahead of its audience.
Anna McKibbin (@annarosemary) is a freelance film critic. She received a journalism MA from City University and specializes in pop culture. Anna has written for London Film School, Film Cred and We Love Cinema.
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