Radu Jude’s latest satire, Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World, is as explosive as you’d think, but it will still consistently surprise and subvert all preconceptions.
Before watching a Radu Jude film, you can watch the trailer, read the synopsis, or even watch a short clip if there is one around, but still you will never, ever be prepared for the glorious cinematic onslaught that will frivolously and defiantly be hurled your way. Jude’s latest, Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World, is a satirical epic of gargantuan impact; a mocking, raging reflection of our warped history and our even more twisted present. Jude builds on everything that has made his previous films such as Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (2021) successes, and yet for all the chaos of Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World, there is an oddly satisfying and indisputable sense of order and refinement.
Split into two parts, Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World follows production assistant Angela (Ilinca Manolache, I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians) across one hectic work day in Bucharest. She drives from location to location, filming people who have been injured at work for casting consideration at an upcoming ‘safety at work’ video. Overworked, underpaid, angry, and generally sad, Angela is reflective of the film’s passionate frustration toward Romanian society. Much of the film’s runtime is spent in the car with Angela, with Manolache always a riveting, forceful presence.
Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World has the same wandering quality to Bad Luck Banging, with its satirical elements forming both naturally and forcefully. Jude shoots Bucharest like Michelangelo Antonioni (La Notte) portrays Milan, capturing the Romanian capital’s Nicolae Ceausescu-influenced destruction and its heavy industrialisation. To keep herself entertained throughout her gruelling day, Angela posts videos online (with the aid of facial filters) of herself as a misogynistic, monstrous, monobrowed man; she and Jude use this male alter ego as a vehicle to draw attention to the world’s extremists such as Andrew Tate or Vladimir Putin.
There is a lot to take in: from references to film history, Romanian politics, literary quotes, and so on, the influences on Jude become even more apparent when all the inspirations are listed in the end credits. But even if the journey can occasionally feel overwhelming, Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World is never not invigorating in how bravely and uniquely it tackles modern day issues. Jude references other films—most of all, the 1981 Romanian film Angela Moves On—in order to draw parallels between different eras of history, gleefully playing with and ripping apart classic notions of film structure and time. Jude even finds time to poke fun at the Lumière brothers, as well as film critics; no one is safe in the cinema of Jude.
Jude executes his screenplay to perfection: lines are loaded, there with reason, helping to sketch a history lesson of not just the past, but our present and future too. With the second, shorter part consisting of a long shot to rival fellow countryman Cristian Mungiu’s town hall scene in RMN (2022), Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World ends with the same flourish with which it began. In this final, elongated scene, one of the companies’ former employees, now disabled after a workplace accident, and his family threaten to show the truth about the multinational business’ conduct. Here, we see capitalism in full effect; greed and money will always beat out your ordinary citizen.
Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World is an insane, explicit film, but most of all it is a necessarily cruel one; notably, it is a cruelty extracted from our own world. Whilst we perhaps, in this film’s very defeatist point of view, shouldn’t expect too much from the end of world, we should at least set our expectations for the next Radu Jude film to the highest level.
Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World will be screened at the BFI London Film Festival on 4-7 October, 2023. Read our list of 25 movies to watch at the 2023 London Film Festival!