Comedy Movie

Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World

A corporate video is not art, as much as its director might want it to be. And yet, the people who work on such projects are expected to display the slavish devotion of passionate and committed artists. Working 18 or 20 hours a day to produce commercial content isn’t worth it, that much is clear. That raises more questions, though: Is “art,” however you define it, any more worthy of sacrificing the safety and sanity of human beings? Is any of this worth it? And do the people for whom we’re sacrificing so much even notice, let alone care? 

Overtime comes up a lot in “Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World,” a cynical and bone-dry satire from Romanian director Radu Jude. Using an exhausted production assistant as its vehicle, Jude’s film explores the ways in which the ever-tightening noose of 21-century capitalism chokes the life out of everyday people. Corners are constantly being cut; workers are constantly being asked to do more for less. In Jude’s version of the apocalypse, the light will go out so subtly, we won’t notice until it’s pitch black. And it’ll be a billionaire unscrewing the bulb to save a few cents on electricity. 

In the context of the internet, this gradual, Jenga-like collapse is referred to as “enshittification.” In Jude’s film, it’s conveyed through the encroachment of billboards into cemeteries and paychecks that are always late. These annoyances are ever-present in the life of Angela (Ilinca Manolache), the aforementioned PA, whose day begins at 5:50 AM and ends long after dark. The film is structured around a single workday, which for Angela consists mostly of sitting in traffic—another banal misery—in between appointments.

Today, she’s auditioning disabled factory workers for a part in a workplace safety video. She’s collecting their sad stories and compiling the footage for her bosses, who will decide that afternoon which of them is just pathetic enough to make for a good cautionary tale. (In a brutal scene later on, a German marketing executive played by Nina Hoss will reject one of the candidates, saying that looking at him makes her too sad.) Angela has been chosen for this role because she’s “one of them.” They trust her. And when the time comes, it’ll be her job to twist the knife. 

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