Illustrating how man’s progress also brings him perilously close to the brink of primitivism, Yasuaki Nakajima’s After the Apocalypse is bleak, minimalist science fiction reminiscent of Chris Marker via Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker. In the aftermath of some unspecified global holocaust, a Japanese man (Nakajima) wearing a gas mask emerges from his dank underground bunker and sets about trying to subsist—and coexist with the few remaining survivors he meets—amid a severe wasteland peppered with derelict buildings and the debris of an all-but-lost society. Nakajima’s film boasts no dialogue (characters feebly grunt and squeak), overexposed 16mm black-and-white cinematography, and an eclectic sound design involving atmospheric noise, muffled radio static, and discordant music (melodious tones, blaring horns, reverb-heavy electric guitar), and this stripped-down aesthetic mirrors his simple story’s preoccupation with reversion. Reduced to their most basic needs and desires, Nakajima’s nameless protagonists—including a violent man with a cane, his baby doll-carrying wife, a juggler, and a scavenger—prove themselves capable of jealousy, brutality, kindness, generosity, and distrust, and a scene in which Nakajima instantly segues from going to the bathroom to pleasuring himself (both with the help of a porno magazine) amusingly highlights the character’s swift devolution into a creature driven by instinctive compulsions. Nakajima’s futuristic variation on The Lord of the Flies is predicated on the notion that man will succumb to the basest behavior in order to endure. However, his script’s primary shortcoming is its inability to expand on this idea aside from having the world’s remaining lonely people regress from mild sociability to cannibalism. As it develops into a more schematic portrait of interpersonal squabbling, After the Apocalypse loses its austere beginning’s sense of mystery, its grainy visual luster—nothing in the last third equals an early, eerie close-up of Nakajima in his protective mask, or a landscape shot of him entering a bathtub filled by a spouting fire hydrant—and its thematic freshness. Yet if it eventually becomes too repetitive to remain fully engaging, such narrative cyclicality also subtly correlates to the film’s climactic vision of humanity’s (and nature’s) relentless ability to persevere.
- Medama Productions
- 72 min
- Yasuaki Nakajima
- Yasuaki Nakajima
- Yasuaki Nakajima, Jacqueline Bowman, Velina Georgi, Zorikh Lequidre, Oscar Lowe, Moises Morales
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