Do Not Expect Too Much From The End Of The World (2023) (Nu astepta prea mult de la sfârsitul lumii)

Do Not Expect Too Much From The End Of The World is a wide-ranging, vicious satire on the post-communist, rampantly privatised, chaotically capitalist economy in Romania and everything else in modern European life, by Radu Jude.

Recognise This?

by Alexa Dalby

Do Not Expect Too Much From The End Of The World

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Overworked, underpaid, harassed and abrasive production assistant Angela (Ilinca Manolache), wearing a glittery minidress (why?), and keeping awake thanks to slugs of coffee, has a foul-mouthed, misogynistic male alter ego, Andrew Tate-lookalike Bobita, with which she lets off steam on TikTok from her overstressed work.

Today her job involves starting at dawn and driving against time all over Bucharest and its outskirts to audition accident-at-work-disabled ex-employees for a safety video for the foreign company they worked for before their accidents. Inevitably they are not there to keep their appointment but she manages pleasantly to engage with them and their families. These needy individuals have been induced by a meagre €500 fee to compete in retelling their pathetic stories in a bid to be selected for the final video.

Angela is harassed by male drivers as she drives with the radio blaring out pop songs with meaningful words on the crowded city roads but she gives as good as she gets, and by her constantly ringing mobile with the sarcastic ring tone Ode To Joy, usually her unsympathetic boss asking for more favours or more unpaid overtime.

Another element of Angela’s nonstop day is taking her mother to a privatised cemetery where her father’s grave is being dug up because it is now in the wrong place for a proposed development: she sees the sexist representative of the property company responsible. She also visits the crass, mainly green-screen-for-cheapness film set of pulp auteur Uwe Boll, who she interviews as himself.

There are knowing contemporary references such as to the renegade Andrew Tate, the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the coronation of Charles III – all satirised.

Angela and her day is shot in harsh black and white, until the colour of the excruciating final sequence of the shooting of the safety video – the slow-burn farce of the shoot she helped set up, with all honourable intentions crumbling one by one as disabled Ovidiu retells his story, going unacceptably off piste by blaming his employers and is forced to recast the truth in multiple retakes to deflect blame from his Austrian multinational employers and thus risk his compensation as rain starts to fall and soak him and his attendant family.

Angela is well-read and intelligent, but her manic, exhausting 16-18-hour working days leave her no time for a private life, other than fitting in uncomfortable sex with an older man in the front seat of her car between errands.

German art-cinema icon Nina Hoss is coolly metallic as a talking head on Zoom as Austrian multinational marketing director Doris Goethe speaking to a toadying Romanian video crew and as a tired passenger when Angela’s late-night task is to taxi her from the airport.

Angela’s driving all day parallels with, and is intercut with, excerpts from a 1982 Romanian film in colour about another Angela, a cab driver (Dorina Lazar, who also appears in the present-day story). Angela Keeps Going directed by Lucian Bratu has been praised for its feminist depiction of a self-sufficient working woman. Both Angelas drive all over Bucharest but experience different types of sexism. They visit the same locations, including a vibrant neighbourhood bulldozed to build a palace for the dictator Ceauescu, deposed by the revolution in 1989. Some film excerpts are in slow motion and there is a long sequence of stills of shrines commemorating road-accident fatalities on a badly maintained major road.

Do Not Expect Too Much From The End Of The World is a vicious (but not undeservedly so) omni-satire. Its wide-ranging targets include the corruption in Romanian and contemporary European society, the EU itself, aggressive multinationals, the freelance media and financed video production, sexism, misogyny, racism, the Romanian revolution and its aftermath, and many, many more. It is toe-curlingly gripping and bursting with creative ideas but seems rather long and some of Angela’s driving sequences could be shortened.

Do Not Expect Too Much From The End Of The World by Radu Jude premiered at Cannes and at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival and at the 2023 New York Film Festival. It is the Romanian entry at the international Oscars and is released on 8 March 2024 in the UK.

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