Thursday, 17 July 2014

Apocalypse Week 4: A Librarian's Dream

The end of the world has been predicted, feared, predicted, mocked, and predicted again for all of time. The world of cinema has attempted to portray the fate of the earth time and time again. For decades film makers have considered the ways in which doom day may come. Aliens, bombs, planetary collisions. But is the end of life as we know it really going to be so obvious? Or is it going to sneak up on us, unannounced and unexplained. This is 1985's The Quiet Earth.

New Zealand scientist Zac (Bruno Lawrence) simply wakes up and goes about his day. One thing he does notice, however, is that no one seems to be doing their jobs - not because they are not working, but because they are simply not there. Soon Zac realises that the world is void of any human life, possibly linked to a project that he was involved in. After declaring himself 'President of the Quiet Earth', he goes on a small rampage, doing whatever he likes, whenever he likes. That is until he meets Joanne (Alison Routledge), another survivor of 'The Effect' and they go on together to search for any other life. Zac stumbles across someone else called Api (Pete Smith), a gun wielding macho man but despite first appearances, he fits in with the trio and they carry on travelling together to try and find some answers.

No caption here... I'll really nail the next one, I swear.

With only three characters in the film you would believe that you could find three fine actors to portray them, even in a country as small as New Zealand. Well, there will not be any Oscars thrown in the direction of Lawrence, Routledge, or Smith any time soon for these roles. With a lack of conviction from all three leads in any dialogue with each other, particularly between Routledge and Smith, a lot  of the emotions they attempt to portray often fall flat. Lawrence's Zac, however, does hold half of the film on his own with strength and power. The first act of the film is simple in many ways. One man finds he is alone in the world and so he goes a little mad. Shooting statues of Jesus, running down empty prams, setting up camp in luxury houses - the things we would all do if we could.

'Don't make me cross, Jesus!'

Despite weak performances, it is clear why The Quiet Earth is a cult film. The first half makes you wonder what you would do if you were in the same situation, the second drives the film with plot and point. There are some genuinely entertaining moments throughout the film such as Zac's speech to cardboard cut-outs of Hitler, The Queen, Nixon, and Pope John Paul II, proclaiming that he now rules the world. The film also does not forget to include the human emotions that are associated with loneliness, but more importantly, the happiness of human contact after an excessive amount of time alone. A truly touching moment involves nothing more than a smile and an extremely sincere hug between Zac and Joanne when they first meet. It is almost enough to make you well up. Slightly ominous writing prevails with excellent glimpses of technical mastery like walking up the walls of a spinning corridor (perhaps Inception was not as original as we thought) and a final scene that is an iconic image on its own.

The Quiet Earth is one of those films that is highly enjoyable despite its less than average performances. It has earned its status as a cult film and is worth watching if only for the stronger first half.

Best Bit? Zac's presidency speech is probably the most entertaining moment in the film, but, actually, his hug with Joanne tugs at a heart string that we often ignore in our social world. Everyone can relate to the notion of wanting company on some scale, and the hug just hits that need more than anything in the film.

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