Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World

Romania 2023, 163 mins
Director: Radu Jude

Radu Jude’s delightfully digressive dark satire about the ills of modern life is one of the most remarkable movies of the last year. It follows Angela, an insanely overworked assistant working for a film company, as she drives around auditioning disabled people for a video dubiously promoting safety in the workplace; between encounters she posts bilious TikTok rants pretending to be Andrew Tate. Meanwhile, her wretched existence is contrasted with that of another Angela – a taxi-driver from a 1981 movie.

Scabrously funny, provocatively topical, unashamedly oddball and often inspired, Jude’s sprawling, crazed but surprisingly coherent comedy skewers both today’s Romania and the West in general. And the last quarter – a superb single take – speaks volumes about the unreliability of the moving image.
Geoff Andrew, Programmer-at-large,

In simple terms, Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World is about the day-to-day graft of a video production runner in contemporary Bucharest. Angela (Ilinca Manolache) calls herself a PA, but – on a zero-hours contract – she’s really a kind of fixer or factotum or dogsbody, currently working with a corporation that’s making a safety-at-work video. For much of Radu Jude’s sprawling black comedy, the camera is placed in the front seat of her Fiat, shooting in high-contrast black and white as she negotiates choked-up traffic to run errands around the city. She’s ‘auditioning’ a succession of workplace accident victims to appear as the video’s main case study.

Exhausted from working 16-hour days, continually on the move, she often struggles to stay awake at the wheel, but still has a barrelling, over-caffeinated energy for the tasks at hand. She finds a release valve for her pent-up bile and frustration making Instagram and TikTok videos in the hateful guise of her avatar Bobita, an Andrew Tate-style influencer. ‘It’s criticism by way of extreme caricature,’ she claims, comparing her methods to Charlie Hebdo and using a glitchy social media filter to transform herself into a raging, monobrowed misogynist.

There’s another Angela too – the namesake taxi driver protagonist (played by Dorina Lazar) of Lucian Bratu’s 1981 film Angela Moves On, colour footage of which Jude repeatedly intersperses with the modern-day action, often slowing the clips down to a crawl or zooming in to scrutinise the noticeably more filmic textures of the image. Shot in Communist-era Romania, these parallel episodes behind the wheel are drawn together with Jude’s own material when the ageing actor Lazar turns out to be the mother of a semi-paralysed accident victim, Ovidiu (Ovidiu Pîrșan) – who eventually gets the part in the firm’s self-serving video.

In this way, Jude suggestively layers identities, fact and fiction, past and present, celluloid and digital, communism and capitalism. Enlarging the fire-starting satirical scope of his recent films I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians (2018) and Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (2021), his latest is a careering, curdling, misanthropic reckoning with the rubbishness of modern life – bracingly current in its references to the gig economy, the fuel crisis, Ukraine, Uber, Zoom calls, the death of Godard, the death of the Queen, and so on. Like Herman Melville cramming Moby-Dick with every conceivable thought, fact and myth about whales, Jude shows an encyclopaedic ambition in the way he pieces together his abrasive odyssey into post-pandemic existence.

Perhaps that feels like a high-cultural reach, but Jude’s film is itself full of them: Angela’s nagging ‘Ode to Joy’ ringtone, the volume of Proust she keeps on her bedside table, the allusions to Ovid and Faulkner. Then there’s the fact that the head of marketing at the Austrian corporation commissioning the video (played with a clipped, lethal air by Nina Hoss) – who we first meet as a disembodied head gazing imperiously out of a fake background in what may be cinema’s most wince-making Zoom session to date – is the ‘grandgrand-granddaughter’ of Goethe. Not just punchlines, these allusions are more of Jude’s layers – his archaeology of a society and the foundations on which our current mess has been jerry-built.

In the soil under Bucharest are Angela’s own grandparents, but these graves are due to be dug up as part of a forced exhumation to make way for the expansion of a hotel complex – sacred ground no protection against the march of capital. But it will all be done ‘by the book’, Angela is assured. And there are more graves, dozens of them, in an interlude late in the film: after Angela tells Hoss’s character about an over-trafficked stretch of highway outside the city, Jude pauses the action for a mute, five-minute montage of the roadside grave markers – a documentary requiem for the collateral damage of a world in hyperdrive.

The giving of ground. Forced compromises. These themes play out in real time in Jude’s bleakly hilarious closing sequence, a 35-minute fixed-frame tableau filmed in sharp, high-resolution colour in an industrial parking lot as the film crew attempts to finesse the messaging of Ovidiu’s testimony. The daylight dims, it starts to drizzle, and Jude drops in his most Godardian digression yet, explicitly connecting this scene of unreliable image-making and corporate exploitation with the Lumière brothers and the dawn of cinema itself. His film surveys our world of avatars and green screen and deepfakes and links it all back to the primal scene of workers leaving the factory.
Sam Wigley, Sight and Sound, April 2024

Radu Jude talking to Jonathan Romney
Romanian director Radu Jude is one of the few contemporary directors whose films genuinely have a breaking-news vividness. His latest film Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World – its title from an aphorism by Polish writer Stanisław Jerzy Lec – analyses the malaises of the working life in digital-era Romania.

In this film, you use social media – Tik Tok, Instagram, et cetera – as well as lots of adverts, as you did in Bad Luck Banging. These are films very much about now, in a very immediate, Godardian way.

I made a few films about history. I always thought that those are not about the past but about the connection between the past and the present. Thinking about the past paradoxically made me more aware of the feeling of history in the present time. I feel that my recent films are like historical films of the present. We know from Walter Benjamin that sometimes it’s not the big events that capture a moment, sometimes it’s the garbage of a culture. So I’m trying to capture the flux of the times through these smaller things. I noticed that sometimes when filmmakers make contemporary films, they don’t want to let the specifics of that time or place in the film. Many Romanian films made during the pandemic made big efforts to get rid of the masks that were mandatory – to place the story in a kind of eternal present. But I’m interested in capturing what is specific. For Bad Luck Banging, everyone said, ‘You cannot make a film with masks.’ I said, ‘But this is how we’re living, I want to capture that.’
Radu Jude interviewed by Jonathan Romney, Sight and Sound, April 2024

Directed by: Radu Jude
©: 4 Proof Film, Paul Thiltges Distributions, Les Films d’Ici, Kinorama, microFILM
Made by: 4 Proof Film
In co-production with: Paul Thiltges Distributions, Les Films d’Ici, Kinorama, microFILM
International Sales: Heretic Outreach
Executive Producers: Diana Caravia, Dan Wechsler, Jamal Zeinal-Zade, Andreas Roald
Producers: Ada Solomon, Adrian Sitaru
Line Producer: Valentino Rudolf
Production Manager: Vlad Gliga
Location Manager: Floriana Sandu
Assistant Director: Adriana Itu
Script Supervisor: Vlad Popa
Casting Director: Florentina Bratfanof
Written by: Radu Jude
Director of Photography: Marius Panduru
Stills Photography: Silviu Ghetie
Visual Effects: Quentin Verbruggen
Editor: Cătălin Cristuțiu
Production Designers: Cristian Niculescu, Andreea Popa
Set Decorator: Marius Bardasan
Costume Designer: Radu Jude
Make-up: Bianca Boeroiu
Hair: Margareta Stefan
Colourist: Raoul Nadalet
Composers: Jura Ferina, Pavao Miholjević
Sound Designer: Marius Leftarache
Production Sound Mixer: Hrvoje Radnic
Sound Mixers: Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc
Sound Editor: Marius Leftarache
Stunt Co-ordinator: Jerry Florian

Ilinca Manolache (Angela Raducani)
Ovidiu Pîrșan (Ovidiu Pîrșan)
Dorina Lazar (Angela Coman)
Laszlo Miske (Gyuri)
Katia Pascariu
Sofia Nicolaescu
Nina Hoss (Doris Goethe)
Rodica Negrea
Serban Pavlu
Ioana Iacob
Claudia Ieremia
Zita Moldovan
Nicodim Ungureanu
Adina Cristescu
Adrian Nicolae
Andi Vasluianu
Bogdan Marhodin
Costel Lepadatu
Liliana Ghita
Mariana Feraru
Cristi Epure
Nelu Tincea
Anastasia Stefan
Alex Dascalu
Daniel Popa
Doru Catanescu
Ada Dumitru
Ciprian Anton
Uwe Boll
Paul Thiltges
Dan Nicolaescu
Valentino Rudolf
Marius Panduru

Romania 2023
163 mins

A Sovereign Films release

Evil Does Not Exist Aku wa sonzai shinai
From Fri 1 Mar
Getting It Back: The Story of Cymande
From Fri 1 Mar
Perfect Days
From Fri 1 Mar
Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World Nu astepta prea mult de la sfârsitul lumii
From Fri 8 Mar; Sat 9 Mar 18:15 + Q&A with director Radu Jude

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Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound and the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
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