Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World: Radu Jude’s twisted workplace realities

Radu Jude’s rude, relentless, and original provocation skewers the managerial classes while “lobbing little stink bombs of humour” into the mix.

9 October 2023

By Nicolas Rapold

Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World (2023)
Sight and Sound

Funny, fierce, unstoppable, Radu Jude’s latest film is quite simply essential viewing for anyone trying to survive the world as we now know it. It’s one woman’s life caught at a gallop, as our hero Angela (instant star Ilinca Manolache) motors around Bucharest running down tasks for a production company while keeping ahold of what personal freedoms she can. Galvanized by Jude and his lead’s humour and weaving in not-too-distant visions of the past, the formally brilliant film shows how Angela’s resilience becomes one kind of rebellion.

The day-in-a-life story follows twenty-something Angela on her rounds meeting with people for a “safety video” commission by a multinational, never holding back with whoever she sees along the way: the usually impoverished ex-employee auditioners and their family members, random strangers, her mom, a barely identified man she enjoys quickies with, a German executive played by Nina Hoss, road-raging drivers.

This isn’t a film that flags comedic beats – it keeps moving – but Angela is constantly dropping mordant facts or launching into dirty jokes or bemused stories. Building up a rich parallel, Jude and editor Catalin Cristutiu intercuts clips from a color 1982 Romanian film about a taxi driver, Angela Moves On (sometimes listed as Angela Keeps Going), trying to hold her own.

Bustling about, Angela faces a routine litany of aggression and insults as well as systemic debasements that see her doing the work of titled positions while being treated as a girl Friday. But she’s her own force of nature, pushing through, her deal-with-it attitude neatly expressed in the disco-glitter dress she keeps wearing for work; the film opens with her waking up to her alarm and a full day ahead with an eminently realistic opening line (“fucking shit!”). And in a stroke of genius by Jude and Manolache, she repeatedly records TikTok asides in the satirical persona of ‘Bobita,’ a filthy Andrew Tate type who goes on nonsensically vulgar, incredibly stupid tirades, with Angela’s blond ponytail obscured by a unibrow, bald-head filter.

Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World (2023)

The lively naturalism can make it easy to miss Jude’s shrewd pacing and crafting of scenes, filmed in versatile black-and-white by DOP Marius Panduru. Visits to two auditioners – they’ve all been injured on the job somehow and are recording questionable safety warnings – become lovely, cluttered, lived-in snapshots of post-Communist families, with genuine warmth to Angela’s engagement. In another, virtuosic, reflexive sequence, Angela’s co-workers have a meeting with Hoss’s exec, a ghostly Zoom image looming over shots of their crowded office, as they hash out details of specious corporate messaging while dropping hints of what they’re really capable of (Cooke lenses – the kind favoured by the likes Kubrick – are name-checked).

Jude skewers managerial classes and the falseness of choice for workers when power and money imbalances are severe. Priceless: Hoss’s exec (hilariously, a descendant of Goethe who doesn’t read the work because “it’s family”) says that if Romanians didn’t want businesses to chop down and profit off its forests, it wouldn’t happen. But far from declaring political points, Jude also strives to capture the textures and rhythms of modern existence – and in its discontinuity and relentlessness – with a sense of adventure and specificity notable among his contemporaries. (Compare the structure-and-outburst feel of his Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (2021), a precisely mid-pandemic film.)

It’s the sort of film that can sound like satire at times but turns out to be a mirror to twisted realities (as with the anecdote of a production assistant harangued to work without sleep who eventually died). Manolache has an enviable unself-consciousness in the role, disappearing into Angela’s multitasking momentum and instead of centring on grand statements. (Seeing Angela encounter the actress who played the 1982 film’s Angela, here a formidable pensioner, is a special treat, and makes clear how little has changed.) Jude, too, is fearless, lobbing little stinkbombs of humour and then boldly switching playbooks for the final, long-take sequence in which the company Angela works for films an outdoor safety video starring a Romanian worker for Hoss’s multinational, Ovidiu, who is now in a wheelchair.

Shifting focus from Angela for the moment, Ovidiu’s predicament: he’s also in the middle of a legal action against the multinational, and the video may be self-incriminating, but he can’t turn down the money he’ll get from participating. It’s a double bind in a broken system of iniquities, the kind Angela has battled throughout the film and then finally plays out (with a characteristically innovative twist from Jude). All this and I haven’t even mentioned the scene featuring renowned hack director Uwe Boll. But Jude’s film rewards re-watching and, down to the credits and Angela’s raucous driving playlist, bristles with the detail and the hum of a life in motion.

► Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World screened in the Dare strand at the 2023 London Film Festival.

Other things to explore

reviews

All You Need is Death: hallucinatory horror captures the alchemical power of Irish folk ballads

By Roger Luckhurst

All You Need is Death: hallucinatory horror captures the alchemical power of Irish folk ballads
reviews

The Book of Clarence: a messy, genre-blending Biblical epic

By Arjun Sajip

The Book of Clarence: a messy, genre-blending Biblical epic
reviews

If Only I Could Hibernate: a beautifully crafted Mongolian drama

By Tom Charity

If Only I Could Hibernate: a beautifully crafted Mongolian drama