Saturday, January 31, 2009


SCIENTIFIC FACT LEARNED: This is the way the world ends: not with a bang but a wimp.*


Full-frontal frolicking, a kiwi kalamity, Bald-E, target practice Jesus, chimp-less truck driving, a ticked-off Maori, a post-apoc Jezebel, and an adage that we as Earthlings should finally come to terms with – Science: it just doesn’t work.

More details here.


It’s the end of the world as we know it, and a bald guy feels fine. But this follicle-challenged fellow isn’t a cute garbage-compacting robot; he’s Zac (Bruno Lawrence) and he has awakened into a world where everyone has disappeared from the face of the Earth. And it’s very quiet. Zac is a New Zealander scientist who was working on a project chillingly titled “Project Flashlight” which involved generating a web of energy that would encircle the Earth so that U.S. warplanes could remain in the air without refueling. But those evil Americans pulled a fast one on our gentle neighbors down under and didn’t inform them that the device may wipe out all life on the planet. Once this revelation dawns on Zac, he does what anyone would do when faced with the possibility that they are the last person on Earth. He goes on an apeshit shopping spree, prances around the city playing saxophone, uses the New Zealand railways has his own personal toy train set, wears a negligee in a soccer field, orates Hitler-esque speeches to a crowd of cardboard cut-out people, and shoots Jesus. And then he goes crazy. But Zac comes to his senses and realizes that he should find a new purpose, seek out other survivors, and atone for his involvement in extinguishing humanity. He settles in a nice beach house, invents gadgets, sets up 80s computers, and analyzes the sun’s strange activity, a signal that the worst is yet to come. To his utter surprise and amazement, he meets another survivor, Joanne (Alison Routledge), a vivacious redhead who is equally shocked to find him. The two share a hot/cold relationship while they search for survivors and continue to analyze the strange activity. Eventually, they hook up and their qualms about leeching off the remnants of humanity wear off once they find love. That is until a big dark man enters the picture to complicate and cock-block. Api (Pete Smith) is a gun-toting Maori who before the “Effect”, as they call it, was a murderer about to be killed by the murderee’s husband. But the three survivors are just glad to know they’re not alone, and start a ménage-a-trois investigatory relationship to find out what’s next in store. But everything’s not coming up roses or Joanne sandwiches. In his scientific data, Zac sees dire things yet to come, and when the three discover a disturbing trait they shared before the Effect took place, a decision must be made to save the Earth from destruction or join the others in oblivion.


The Quiet Earth is a cerebral post-apocalyptic thriller that’s a depressing but fascinating experience with scattered moments of elation, discovery, and confusion. The movie is a thoughtful exploration of what happens when the world ends, a revelation of our fragile hold on reality when societal constraints are absent, and an examination of the common bond among us as we struggle through existence. This New Zealand-produced science fiction movie isn’t so much concerned with typical sci-fi clichés such as monsters or aliens; its ideas are focused on aspects of the human condition: love, guilt, suicide, and our fate after death. And at a tight ninety minutes, it expands upon these ideas with more depth than a cinder-block thick novel or a four-hour cine-snoozefest. But the film isn’t without drama and thrills. Zac’s forlorn journey at the beginning of the movie is fascinating to watch and we feel with him as his sanity unravels through grief and unfathomable loneliness and guilt. We also experience the joy when he finds Joanne and the pair square off and ultimately find compassion and intimacy. The tension generated with Api’s arrival is palpable, and you begin to really feel for Zac, despite the revelation that he may have been the cause of the Effect. There are chilling moments in the movie, but none created by cheap camera tricks and sound effects. Instead, you are hypnotized by the overwhelming silence and near absence of a music score combined with the morose grayness of a New Zealand landscape. Fortunately, we are spared any goofy explanations for the cause of everyone’s disappearance, as any would spoil the moody atmosphere of mystery. And the enigmatic ending, though confusing, leaves you not only to ponder your place in the world, but also your destination at the end of it.

*Apologies to T.S. Eliot.

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