Film

Recommended Viewings: “Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World”

The latest film from Romanian director and screenwriter Radu Jude popped up on a bunch of best films lists at the end of last year. It was also Romania’s official submission for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film and we can see why! The award-winning filmmaker already enjoyed a prestigious cult following for works like Aferim! which won him the Silver Berlin Bear for Best Director at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival and Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn which got him the Golden Bear in 2021. Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World solidifies Jude’s genius status with a truly unique approach to storytelling and refusal to shy away from complex themes.

Of course this level of innovation means Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World isn’t exactly easy to sum up. On one hand, it can be seen as a playful hyper-contemporary mashup of narratives, footage styles and turbofolk. On the other, it’s a sharp socio-political critique of our modern gig economy and the general disarray that is life today. And yet, even those descriptions don’t quite do it justice.

Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World, 2023

The main protagonist is a woman named Angela (Ilinca Manolache), a sporadically-paid production assistant in Bucharest who is tasked with gathering personal injury testimonials in preparation for a multinational corporation’s workplace safety video. While her job takes up most of her days (and nights), she frequently stops to make short Tik Tok videos as Bobiță – an over-the-top alter ego who she uses to spew profanity-laden vulgarities behind an Andrew Tate filter.

While Angela’s world may be jarring for non-Romanian viewers at first, Angela herself embodies a kind of messiness and contradiction that makes her feel familiar.

Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World, 2023

Angela is someone who gives money away to a beggar on the street only to have to ask a friend for a loan later because she hasn’t been paid yet. She is someone who can reference Goethe in casual conversation more easily than the posh executive who claims to be the German writer’s direct descendant. Angela is also someone who frequently allows her own needs and opinions to be dismissed and yet is able to quickly and eloquently defend Bobiță without missing a beat:

“Man, you’re so vulgar with this Bobiță!” a coworker complains. To which, Angela shoots back: “I criticise by way of extreme caricature. I’m like Charlie Hebdo, sucker!” And later, when asked about referencing Vladimir Putin in one of her videos and whether she’s afraid of being labelled a Putinist, Angela simply says: “No, I hope some people are still smart.”

Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World, 2023

Like Angela’s Bobiță videos, it’s impossible to write the film off as just (making) fun. Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World assumes a level of intelligence and social consciousness when it comes to the absurdity of the capitalist and patriarchal systems portrayed.

Angela is forced to fit her own life – sleep, sex, creativity (Bobiță) – into the in-between moments of a job that doesn’t seem to end. While fiery and defiant, she still lives with the pervasive vulnerability of being a woman navigating roads filled with the rage of predominantly male drivers. Any active resistance on her part is restricted to small moments, like spitting in the food she serves to the higher ups or cursing under her breath when she is harassed by another car.

Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World, 2023
Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World, 2023

Angela is better than the work she does. And certainly better than the people she does it for. The overarching irony, of course, is the theme of the project (work safety) and the corporate demands that serve to defeat the entire purpose. Overall, the film is as wild and bleak as the world it’s depicting. And, for all its obvious profanity and subtle profundity, that world is clearly ours too. Which should be reason enough to want to experience it for yourself!

Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World is now streaming on MUBI. Get 30 days free to watch it and hundreds more hand-picked films on MUBI at mubi.com/booooooom.

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