Berlin 2013: ‘End of Time’ review


Sebastian Fritzsch’s End of Time (Endzeit, 2013) is a snapshot of a post-apocalyptic world, fashioned against the same deeply meditative backdrop of 1980s Soviet sci-fi. Yet, despite its melancholic methodology, this languid drama lacks the reflective, sociopolitical punch the sub-genre is renowned for embracing. A brief hand-drawn, stop-motion exposition announces the apocalypse that has befallen the world. Failing to truly explain the reasons behind the Earth’s fall, End of Time’s ambiguous opening initially entices its audience, before the realisation dawns that this bleak world’s new veneer is merely a narrative device.

The only survivor of this vacant landscape of dull browns and listless greens which point to a world in a constant state of winter, with the promise of spring and rebirth little more than a hopeful dream, is a single nameless woman (Anne von Keller) who survived this ecological catastrophe by escaping to the countryside and living of the land. Feral and dishevelled, this woman appears to be the only human left in a world where nature has prevailed over civilisation. We observe her self-taught hunting skills in action, with her natural instincts and the survival techniques that has evolved from her isolation painting a fascinating portrait of human nature distilled to its original savagery.

Sadly, this captivating struggle for survival is far too brief, cut short the moment this mysterious survivor discovers a dilapidated barn filled with canned foods. It’s the temporary residence of a young man (Alexander Merbeth). The pair initially fights over this nourishing bounty before resigning themselves to the moral conduct which once drove humanity to live as a society. The man advances on the woman in the night, surprising her with a brief sexual experience that’s little more than a resigned act of rape. However, in this barbaric world where survival is key, this repugnant encounter is ignored as merely a natural act human nature, with the pair embarking on an optimistic expedition to find others like them and becoming lovers.

Failing to develop its enticing theme of the building blocks of a new society forming from the ashes of civilisation’s demise, End of Time becomes little more than a laborious slog through a miserable rendering of the German countryside with little to no character development in this world that has literally been fashioned from a childish caricature. Full of mistrust, barbarism and isolation, this contemplative study of humanity results in a disheartening anti-climax, culminating in little more than fragmented conversations held in a ramshackle barn between a group of dreary strangers.

Fritzsch’s End of Time lacks the heart and relatable emotion to bring its characters to life, ultimately resulting in a rather bland excursion through a genre that’s already been mined to near exhaustion,. The mere fact that the film has nearly nothing of importance to say makes its spurious vilification of wolves and unflinching scenes of animal cruelty a little hard to stomach. Sci-fi has always worked best when reflecting contemporary issues in an imaginative and often futurist setting, sadly the message here is so opaque and fragmented that it barely feels worth hearing.

The 2013 Berlin Film Festival runs from 7-17 February. For more of our Berlinale coverage, simply follow this link.

Patrick Gamble