When you think of the zombie apocalypse genre images of rotting corpses lumbering their way through empty streets in a mindless search for brains are probably what you’d picture first along with titles like 28 Days Later, The Walking Dead, or World War Z. Well Endzeit, the second feature from filmmaker Carolina Hellsgard, takes this traditional concept and twists it challenging what we think we know about the disaster film.
Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Olivia Vieweg Endzeit is the story of Vivi, struggling with trauma over the death of her sister, she leaves her struggling community of survivors and crosses into the wild unknown. She pairs up with unlikely companion Eva, a strong seemingly fearless zombie killer, as they begin to make their journey to the city with hopes of a new kind of life.
I came into the film expecting a typical zombie disaster film type story, but I very quickly had my expectations subverted. The film is very much a dark fairytale in every way especially visually. The films cinematographer Leah Striker achieves such a soft dreamlike quality to the images you almost forget you are watching a zombie film until one of them pops up on screen and someone looses an arm. I had the opportunity to speak with director Carolina Hellsgard and she had this to say, “We decided early on that we didn’t want a desaturated, depressing apocalyptic world but rather something quite lush and beautiful.” Inspired by the natural takeover after the Chernobyl disaster this film aimed to make a world that would be and is still very much alive even after the humans were all gone.
Whilst the story focuses on Vivi’s character progression through her trauma, and the relationship between her and Eva, the environmental subtext was hard to ignore. Images of plants and bugs are prevalent throughout and even the zombies are part of this with their own unique biologies growing off their faces. But the film is not a cautionary climate change tale as much as a reminder that we are also part of the worlds ecosystem. “It’s more about talking about a topic which I think concerns most of us,” Carolina said, “Endzeit doesn’t have one particular message.. but it is about the coexistence between people and nature and I think the zombie’s symbolise that”
The film is being heralded at this years Sydney Film Festival for its crew of mainly women. For Carolina however finding women she wanted to work with was not the challenge that the big studio executives might have you believe. “The first film I made, Vanya, was also predominantly women so for me it’s something very normal. I don’t really think about it,” she said. In particular she spoke about her Director of Photography, “She [Leah Striker] is…very used to shooting action sequences, which back then I didn’t really know how to cover them. So it’s very important for me to have someone like Leah on the project because she’s the perfect mix of arthouse and commercial and to be honest I couldn’t really find a man doing that kind of work.”
With a blend of dark and light the film ends up successfully balancing hope with hopelessness. The events that occur can be horrific but the film itself is not horrifying. It is a tragic story at times but doesn’t leave you in despair. The films messages are there without being too in your face and the cinematography is just so beautiful you will want to run off and live in the forest even with the zombies. I enjoyed being taken on this journey where I really didn’t know what was going to happen next and how the story was going to end. It’s definitely worth checking out.
You can see Endzeit – Ever After at the Sydney Film Festival on Friday 7th and Sunday 9th of June. For full details on screening times and locations click below: