Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Another World - review

2014 (Israel)

Contains spoilers.

Much like the internet™ I'm quite torn by director and co-writer Eitan Reuven's debut zombie endeavour. I loved each and every highly stylised, frantic and ultra-violent encounter and it's homage to 28 Days Later was near perfect; yet split as it was into six distinct slices, each re-purposing a similar big frenetic climax, I was in all truth rather weary of it all by the end. I was also intrigued by all the long winded pseudo-philosophical and religious ramblings that contrived the bulk of the down-time; yet for all the clever little existential and academic insights I just couldn't shake off the thought that maybe I wasn't quite grasping the whole, no doubt brilliant, meta simply because there wasn't one, and the 'I am very smart' script was just really a right up its own behind exercise in academia.

Pretentious might be the word I'm looking for, and a passage from Genesis and narrator introducing each day rambling about the extinction of the dinosaurs, and the perfect storm that may have been the cause, while all the time shooting parallels to the current apocalyptic shit-storm, most certainly was for starters. Also not naming the four disparate survivors; simply billed as Colonel (Carl McCrystal), Wizard (Zach Cohen), Doctor (Susanne Gschwendtner) and Daughter (Davina Kevelson) or ever really exploring their characters beyond their contrasting and reductionist philosophical positions was a bit showy too. Then again there was obviously enough know-how that it made for some interesting dialogue and clashes, even if, as said, I never felt it ever really came together well enough to pull off what I think it was trying to accomplish.

While I think it does the film a disservice to analyse the action sequences totally separately from the conversations and narration I think it's worth it, as a lot of viewers, and this isn't being insulting, will have glazed over well before the second long over-complicated chemistry lesson or nihilistic eulogy has begun. As said this isn't an easy one to call either. There's no doubting Reuven has a real eye for horror and a real talent at bringing the dark, menacing and truly dangerous to the screen. I understand the shaky, bouncing and cam technique isn't for all but I felt it brilliantly captured the convincingly made-up and perfectly choreographed fast, rabid infected, and the increasingly desperate and edge-of-the-seat efforts of the survivors to out shoot and out run them.

The narrative itself though is a bit of a convoluted mess. Yes, even aside from the high academia word-wankery, the way in which the story jumps about, leaving huge swathes of time unaccounted is jarring, and the base position that the foursome would rather take the fight to the zombies with vapour bombs, dynamite and the tight urban sprawl rather than drive two hundred miles, with two lorries full of provisions to hide and wait it out, is quite frankly ludicrous. Also while the cat and mouse fight with a zombie-hybrid billed as Mouser (David Lavenski) was actually interesting, even finally firing some connections in me to the pseudo-intellectual stream of consciousness being spouted by the narrator, he was painfully underutilised and unexplored, and brought to an abrupt end weakly and prematurely.

It's 28 Days Later territory. They're infected, alive and the plan is to get to a month or two in when they've all died of hunger or exposure then move to a nice clean spot and start life again. So not zombie? It took me a while but I've now embraced the mindless but alive, and will gladly argue their zombie place at the table. While I fully acknowledge Romero's legacy the further I've delved the more inherently ambiguous and ultimately moot the whole life and dead debate is; and it's lack of control which serves as the actual signifier. There were zombies well before Romero stuck his grubby mitts in, and they were very much alive, and while he created an undoubted cult niche, let's not get carried away.

So while I do have quite a lot of respect for Another World, I can't help but feel the high intensity and highly stylised action would have been better partnered with a pseudo-intellectual meta that wasn't trying quite so hard. There's a lot going on; way too much with a Pandora's Box approach to the end of the world that tries to mesh together just too many ideologies and principles. There's euthanasia, Viking burials, bastardised Descartes, dinosaur extinction and Gaia theories, the merits of autodidacticism and utilitarianism, and even God's eternal grace and love is thrown into the mix; nothing is left out the intellectual maelstrom and whilst there's no doubting the writers know a great deal of words and concepts there's little evidence they know how to weave a coherent story with them all. So certainly interesting, and certainly entertaining, Another World ultimately falls short as either the gnarly little horror or the little existential piece of art it thinks it is - 4/10.


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