THE STORY – An overworked and underpaid production assistant has to shoot a workplace safety video commissioned by a multinational company. But an interviewee makes a statement that forces him to re-invent his story to suit the company’s narrative.
THE CAST – Ilinca Manolache, Nina Hoss, Uwe Boll & Katia Pascariu
THE TEAM – Radu Jude (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 163 Minutes
Romanian provocateur Radu Jude is up to his old tricks again, and lucky for us, his latest manifesto, “Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World,” shows the writer/director at his bomb-throwing best. As he did in his last feature, the acclaimed “Bad Luck Banging, or Loony Porn” (2021), Jude balances wild satire and sexual frankness with a directing style that is both confident and fearless, one that is uniquely his own.
In “Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World,” Jude, once again, plays with film structure, dividing his latest feature into two separate components. Part 1, set in the present day and filmed in black-and-white, follows Angela (a terrific Ilinca Manolache), a tough but harried production assistant who spends most of her waking hours in her car, barreling from errand to errand and flipping off leering male drivers who pass her by. Angela’s current project is to audition workers who are injured or maimed in work-related accidents for a corporate safety video that her company is producing. At the same time, she must deal with the fact that her parents’ mortal remains have to be dug up due to a cemetery’s “clerical error” that promised their gravesite to a coming housing development. Clearly, Angela has a lot going on.
If that wasn’t enough, she is keeping up her social media presence on TikTok, disguising herself as a filthy male sexist named “Bobita,” which she creates by placing Andrew Tate’s features over her own thanks to iPhone software. Clearly, Jude is having a ball with Bobita, putting the foulest of observations possible into the character’s mouth. Angela feels that she is creating satire by exaggeration with Bobita, though it’s clear that a few of Bobita’s fans take his right-wing hate rants seriously.
Throughout Angela’s adventures, Jude interweaves clips from an actual 1981 film titled “Angela Moves On, “which depicts another Angela (Dorina Lazar) who is also a woman behind the wheel — a rare female taxi driver in 1981 who must deal with the same kind of neanderthals that 2023 Angela must contend with but in a more subtle way that was demanded of women at the time.
Jude is not above taking a playful detour now and then, such as Angela’s side trip to the set of a giant-bug monster movie being directed by Uwe Boll, who is given the chance to rage against film critics once again. At last, Angela reaches her mandatory 4 pm staff meeting where the final decision on casting will be made by the Austrian client (a game Nina Hoss), who appears on the Zoom call as a fearsome giant head, reminiscent of nothing as much as Frank Morgan as the Wizard of Oz.
When Part 2 — the actual filming of the corporate safety video — begins, all seems to be in place for the chosen victim to tell his story honestly, but as take after take is muffed, the client begins to make changes to the copy so that finally, the victim is made to blame for his condition, a last turn of the screw by Jude.
If you take big swings in a 163-minute film, you’ll have some misses, and Jude has his share here. The repeated use of the 1981 “Angela Moves On” footage, for example, while making a perceptive point of how the role of assertive women has changed over the years, offers diminishing returns the more it’s repeated. Similarly, by the time the final twist is revealed in the film’s concluding sequence, its length lessens its desired political impact.
Still, these are relative quibbles in Jude’s wildly imaginative smorgasbord of prickly delights, where no sacred cow is left ungored, nor is any pious platitude left unmocked. “Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World” is simply too much, and that, after all, is its very point.