If the world was going to end due to an atomic apocalypse it’s safe to say Earth’s population would panic. But what if there was a chance that some of us could survive? Obviously this would be viewed as a speck of light amongst the darkness. Imagine that potential survivors would be selected to go into a fortified, blast proof bunker with enough supplies to see out the following nuclear winter. But there’s a catch: you have to convince others going into the bunker you are worthy enough to join them. If you were a doctor it’s safe to assume you’re ‘in’ as you can treat others when ill. However you are infertile, meaning you wouldn’t be able to help re-populate Earth once you leave the bunker. So your chances of getting into the bunker are 50/50 and your life hangs in the balance. Or you have guaranteed your spot in the bunker but now have to decide who will live and die with a similar conundrum. It’s emotionally draining, either way.
This sort of scenario is what makes up the plot of After the Dark. A philosophy tutor, Dr. Zimit (D’Arcy), at a university in Jakarta, Indonesia is teaching his final class of the year. He asks his group of 20 students to tell him how the year of his teaching has enhanced their understanding of life, decision making and morals. Some students outright mock him (“Masturbation is to sex what philosophy is to reality” one cheerily tells him) while others question if these skills would be as useful as he claims. Zimit becomes frustrated, they just don’t get what philosophy is and all look set to fail his class. He has an exercise that he knows will make them use all their tools of reasoning that will finally make them understand his message.
What if the world was ending and these 20 students find a bunker that only has supplies for 10 people? All the students draw cards at random that gives them a job title, these will help determine who would be more useful if selected for the bunker. The students then spend the remainder of After the Dark arguing who will live and who will die as their choices are depicted on screen.
A bold way of making a film, it will no doubt cause the viewer to question what they would do if in that situation themselves. The subject matter brings to attention a series of potentially contorversial issues. The one that is imediately obvious as such is the way in people are dismissed due to their jobs and not as human beings. Some of the jobs that the students pick would be beyond useless at a time of needing to rebuild and repopulate the world. Real estate agent, a flowerist and poet are all kicked into the long grass without a chance to talk others into letting them inside the bunker. The conclusion is that these people would be a waste of resources if they can’t ‘earn their keep’ later on by helping rescue a savaged Earth. Don’t these ‘failures’ have anything else to offer?
Yes, as it happens. Due to a plot twist that alters how these non-important students are viewed. Zimit reveals that the cards have a hidden message and these drastically change the tone of the film. Some of the ‘vital’ survivors, with the worthy jobs, discover they are flawed. One is a farmer and everyone agrees he would be able to grow crops after the armegeddon. Unfortunately for him his card’s secret is that he is gay and therefore less likely to breed with the women within the group. Now do they really want him? Everyone believed to be of use during this scenario is now unsure of what their fates would be, causing tension and drama as the discussion gets more heated.
These issues all add to what may be an attempt at a ‘moral’ for the viewer: despite our differences we are all human. We all have something to offer life in some way, big or small. That means we should all try and see that in one and other. Interestingly race is never mentioned as a reason for someone being excluded. Is this another moral? Based on the way the plot operates, probably. If nearly all of the worlds population is wiped out the survivors will not be concerned with issues such as race, nationality and class. It’s about making sure the human race stays alive in any form.
As well as this intricate storyline After the Dark has a strong young cast that carry the dialogue heavy plot brilliantly. Rhys Wakefield, the creepy upper-class intruder of 2013’s The Purge, is James. Not only is this the character that becomes the gay farmer but it seems a subplot is at work as Zimit constantly harasses and bullies him. The two actors have a chemistry that creates what feels like a genuine dislike between them. D’Arcy is intriuging as the over zealous tutor. He will be remembered by some as Anthony Perkins in another recent film – Hitchcock (2012). Sophie Lowe’s character of Petra is a little too whiny and moany as James’ girlfriend. There is something about her role that is unlikeable despite the fact its meant to be likeable. She is a good actress, though.
Huddles, the director, has a great eye for wide shots featuring the characters in the make belief landscape. When the bombs start falling and creating mushroom they linger in the background. They tower over everything, a reminder of the grim fate coming the students way. The graphics used for these mushcom clouds are very good, thankfully not ruining powerful shots with shoddy pixels.
It’s a end-of-the-world movie that is more concerned with ethics and morals at a time when these concepts look set to be wiped out. Eploring a complex web of topics it’s a movie that will lure the viewer in and puzzle the same topics, too.
Out now on region 2 DVD from Signature Entertainment.