GoCritic! Review: Ever After
- Susanne Gottlieb writes about Carolina Hellsgård’s post-apocalyptic zombie movie from Toronto's Discovery section, which suffers from too many different genres and narrative tropes
In the German production Ever After [+see also:
interview: Carolina Hellsgård
film profile], Swedish-born director Carolina Hellsgård’s second feature, two young women fight for survival in an apocalyptic zombie wasteland — haunted by past demons, as mother nature reclaims its commanding place on earth. Three years after her debut Wanja [+see also:
film profile], also about a pair of outsider girls and their daily struggles, Hellsgård, with scriptwriter Olivia Vieweg and an all-female crew, has adapted Vieweg’s own 2011 graphic novel of the same name. The final product is a mash of genres, ideas and moralities — some more coherent than others.
In a world in which an unexplained epidemic has turned most of humanity into zombies, only Weimar and Jena have formed the last human strongholds. But instead of being safe havens they are dead, weary places. The streets are empty, with former sites of civilisation simply serving as a depository for useless electronics. Many inhabitants are confined to mental asylums, amongst them Vivi (Gro Swantje Kohlhof). Anguishing from the guilt of not being able to save her sister, she hasn’t gone outside for two years. That changes when she is ordered to help repair the fences. Here she meets Eva (Maja Lehrer), an expert zombie killer who struggles with all the lives she has had to take. The two of them decide to leave Weimar and travel to Jena. The world they encounter on the outside however turns out to be less of a zombie wasteland but a thriving, reawakened paradise.
As in any modern zombie movie, the undead serve as a foil to criticise real-world social ills. In this instance nature is taking vengeance against humanity’s greed by wiping the species off the earth. This is the general tone Hellsgård is setting with her movie. The atmosphere she creates is that of an outing on a nice summer day. Her DOP Leah Striker captures these impressions in extensive, panning wide shots, an artsy use of lens flares and warm colour grading. The apocalypse is only imminent in the eyes of surviving humanity, expressed through tilted angles, aggressive lighting and the confined spaces they inhabit.
Given the natural fit of the zombie genre for social critique, the implementation unfortunately suffers. This is less a problem of Hellsgård as a filmmaker, than one that is already ingrained in the source material. The zombies are used as an inconsistent threat. They may take out a whole professional rescue team but are also easily knocked out by the two girls with wooden planks or by simply running away. With the focus being on philosophising about human morality and decay, the zombies become an occasional manifestation of fear that seems more like an afterthought.
While the movie may succeed in drawing the viewer in with its set-up, it approaches its routine post-humanity angle too bluntly and conventionally, and without really making consistent use of its horror elements. This interweaving, of too many different genres and narrative tropes, therefore struggles to settle into a coherent storyline and setting. At times, it gives the impression of a seemingly random selection of ideas thrown at the screen.
This article was written as part of GoCritic! training programme.
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