Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 21, 2019


Filed under: Film — louisproyect @ 8:52 pm

Opening today at the IFC Center in N.Y. is a German zombie film titled “Endzeit”, which means ever after. However, it has little in common with George Romero and much more with European art films of the kind that show up at the IFC rather than the Cineplexes. It is based on the graphic novel by Olivia Vieweg of the same title that is much more about female bonding in a post-apocalyptic Germany that has been reduced to two cities behind fences. In Weimar, those infected are killed on sight while in Jena, they are working on a cure.

We meet Vivi in the first few minutes of “Endzeit” as she is being treated in a psychiatric hospital for what appears to be post-traumatic stress. When the zombies stormed down her street in Weimar looking for prey, she could not manage to cajole her kid sister out of a backyard swimming pool in time to be saved and thus remains haunted by this memory.

Vivi is conscripted to work on repairing fences on the outskirts of Weimar where she runs into Eva, a tall and assertive woman also from Weimar who is supervising the crew. When a conscript is bitten on the arm by a zombie that has penetrated the fence, Eva does not hesitate in chopping off the woman’s arm so as to save her from being zombified. Until the infection reaches the brain, you remain human in this version of zombie hell. When the foreman overseeing Eva and the rest of the crew discovers that the conscript is still alive, she orders Eva to shoot her since those are the draconian rules they live by–literally. As a hardened Weimar enforcer, Eva is up to the task but decides afterward that will be her last execution.

Horror-stricken by what she has seen, Vivi decides to seek refuge in the relatively more humane Jena. Next morning, she stows away on an automated driverless train used to bring food in to the fence repairing detachment. To her surprise, Vivi discovers that Eva has Eva is a stowaway on the same train, no longer willing to enforce the Weimar rules. En route to Jena, the train comes to a halt for mechanical reasons apparently. The two women enter the Black Forest with the intention of making it to Jena on foot. Both are haunted by memories, Vivi by her failure to shepherd her sister to safety and Eva for all the people she has killed as an enforcer for what remains of civilized society.

For the remainder of the film, there are few encounters with zombies of the kind that you are familiar with from either George Romero’s films or from “The Walking Dead”. Instead, you see two survivors trying to make the best of a grim situation while finding moments of solace in nature and each other.

If “Endzeit” appears at first to be a two-character story, you will soon discover that the third character is nature itself. The woods, the rivers, and the sky are always in the foreground as we begin to understand that the post-apocalyptic world they occupy has in many ways become that way in the same way that the creation myth of Adam and Eve unfolded. Instead of eating the forbidden apple, mankind has challenged nature to the point that it is finally extracting its revenge. Needless to say, this is a film that relates very much to the current moment even if it more about the lives of two women than about possible salvation. Given the ineluctable forces that are gathering now to create a post-apocalyptic condition sans zombies, the film has a certain resonance.

The film was directed by Carolina Hellsgärd, a Swede, based on a script by Olivia Vieweg, the German author of the graphic novel. The director of photography is Eva Striker, an American. It was produced by Ingelore König, a German. A film with so many insights into female bonding was no doubt a product of such a uniquely female work, about which producer König had this to say:

What makes ENDZEIT special? In our industry in Germany, it is primarily men who have a say when it comes to genre films. And yet, I know enough women who are also interested. But a bit differently: we also need a really emotional story and have the expectation that it should be about something that is important to people. Violence and action for their own sake are often just tedious.

We especially want to get women excited about a road movie through a dystopian world. It’s about a friendship that gets off to an unusual start and ends up even more unusually. It’s about finding your own vision of life in a broken world, a vision apart from fenced-in cities and the insane belief that walls can save us. The film tells a story of nature’s survival despite human greed. These are topics that are of particular relevance to younger people — and, of course, to lovers of the zombie genre, too.

1 Comment »

  1. I’ve been wondering for a while if I’ll ever get to see this film, which does sound worth a look. My German wouldn’t be good enough to watch it without subtitles so I’ll probably just have to hope it makes it to a festival near me . . .

    Comment by John Edmundson — June 21, 2019 @ 11:23 pm

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