Past and present collide in this Romanian New Wave road movie: “Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World”4 min read

 In Focus, Format, Read, Review, Reviews, Southeastern Europe
Following up on his 2021 Golden Bear win at Berlin with his humorous and provocative Covid-era film Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, Radu Jude’s latest feature continues his trend of raunchy lampoons of modern-day Romania. 

Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World follows twenty-something Angela, a production assistant sent to interview people for a “safety video” commissioned by an Austrian-owned multinational company, along with running other errands. Most of the film is set over the course of one day as we see the sleep-deprived Angela navigate a bustling Bucharest, herself an example of an overworked employee barely keeping afloat in today’s gig economy. Through Angela’s visits to various neighbourhoods within the capital, Jude explores the pitfalls of modern Romania, including anti-Roma sentiment and corruption. Accompanying all this action is a wonderful soundtrack that fully embraces Angela’s seeming nihilism about both her future and Romania’s as a whole. 

What could have been a delightful, but rather conventional, movie becomes an interesting and multi-layered body of work through Jude’s creative usage of a cinematographic montage. Sampled throughout the film are clips from the 1981 feature Angela Moves On, a Ceaușescu-era Romanian film focused on a female taxi driver, similarly named Angela, played by now veteran actress Dorina Lazar. Jude masterfully links the stories of the two Angela’s together, depicting the changes that have taken place over time, including the razing of the Uranus neighbourhood to build the monstrous Palace of the Parliament, and, comparatively, illustrating how little the experiences of female drivers have changed, particularly in regards to sexual harassment by men. 

The two narratives fully collide when modern-day Angela is sent to interview the older Angela’s son Ovidiu (Ovidiu Pîrsan), a wheelchair user hoping to get a spot in the workplace safety video. When he eventually wins the €1,000 gig, the film transitions slightly, leaving the road trip behind and instead becoming a continuous, locked-off scene focused on Ovidiu and his family, including the older Angela (played by an older Dorina Lazar), filming the commercial. The family’s dilemma — caught between the need for immediate money and their attempt to take the same company to court over workplace safety violations — takes over.

While Jude touches upon a number of important topics in this film, one of the most deftly handled is that of the power imbalance between West and East. One of Angela’s last tasks of the day is to drive the company’s sales executive Doris Goethe (Nina Hoss), a descendant of the famed writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, yet who hasn’t read any of his work because “it’s family.” During the drive, Goethe argues that if the Romanian people didn’t want companies like the one she works for chopping down native forests for profit, they just had to say so, and it wouldn’t happen. Likewise, when learning about a dangerous road that has killed more people than it is kilometres long, Goethe questions why the police don’t just enforce safe driving standards. It is at this point Jude pauses the film’s narrative to play an extended montage of the real-life roadside crosses left in memory of these fatal accidents. 

The majority of the film is filmed in a grainy black-and-white; colour only appears when the image being shot is filtered through another screen, whether a movie screen, a Zoom screen, or a phone screen. In this sense, Jude also interrogates the very production of imagery and cinema itself. 

Like Jude’s last film, Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World embraces vulgarity — to keep herself entertained throughout her various errands, Angela records numerous TikToks as ‘Bobita,’ a satirical Andrew Tate type (complete with a filter) who misogynistically boasts of their sexual exploits and spews adoration for Vladimir Putin. In a great cameo, Angela even manages to interview the cult German director Uwe Boll, poking fun at his famed dislike of snobby film critics. While ‘Bobita’ is just another facet of Jude’s caricatures, it is worth noting the vulgar language — indeed, a noticeable number of audience members at the Scottish premiere left the screening mid-way through.

Though long — the film’s run time is over 2-and-a-half hours — Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World is fast-paced. Jude expertly keeps his audience’s interest, whether through Angela’s witticisms or through his deft handling of modern Romania’s quandaries. The film was shown last week during the 2024 Glasgow Film Festival, and was Romania’s official entry to the 96th Academy Awards. 

Feature Image: Canva / Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World
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