Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World

Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World
October 7th 2023

The latest from madcap Romanian filmmaker Radu Jude is, in short, a three-headed scheme: a workplace safety video initiative, dummy Andrew Tate histrionics, and clipped footage from a 1981 Romanian drama, each flaunting the carnivalesque indignities of hustling through late capitalism. In the focal plot of Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World (2023)—the title borrows an aphorism by Polish poet Stanisław Jerzy Lec—Angela (Ilinca Manolache), a production company gofer, is sub-contracted by an Austrian homeware corporation to interview workers who have sustained injuries on the job—vaguely apologetic, bone-tired folks who recount their accidents into her cellphone camera, nearly all of whom she assures have a good chance of being chosen for the video.

Angela finds little relief in her 16-hour work days (shot in coarse B&W by cinematographer Marius Panduru), with the exception of her bizarre hobby: posting vulgar videos under the pseudonym “Bobita,” using a filter of the misogynfluencer and alleged sex trafficker Andrew Tate, complete with a glossy bald head, Groucho brows, and a neck beard. As she drives endlessly around Bucharest—Do Not Expect is, for the most part, a road movie—Bobita kvetches about women being “fucking sluts” and other obscenities, seemingly to a significant following. “I criticize by way of extreme caricature,” she explains when her mother is dubious of her ugly language. Bobita’s posts, like the commissioned calamity-porn interviews, target the body as a culpable site for violence: if a woman is assaulted, or a worker is maimed, it is because they didn’t exercise enough caution.

Interlaced throughout are excerpts from Lucian Bratu’s Angela Moves On (1981), in which a plucky young cab driver, also named Angela (Dorina Lazar), makes her rounds in Bucharest. The sounds and images are at times decelerated, warping our two radically distinct protagonists and underlining their private and professional labors. In searching for the perfect mouthpiece for the video, the Angela of today happens upon Ovidiu, a man paralyzed on the job, whose reminiscence of the accident evinces liability on the part of the corporation. His mother is the Angela of the Bratu film, with Lazar reprising her role. On the opposite end of the gamut is Doris Goethe (Nina Hoss), the detached figurehead of the enigmatic Austrian corp and great-great-great-granddaughter of the author of Faust. She spends the better part of her screen time as a buoying head on a metropolitan Zoom background, witlessly spilling yeses and nos unto her meeting of eager foot soldiers.

Do Not Expect makes repeated reference to what Angela terms “small films,” a matryoshka of media offerings sprinkled throughout: Bobita’s lewd posts; the workplace-safety cell footage; Uwe Boll’s nonunion creature feature (featuring Boll, himself, stomping around a backlot); the clipped vignettes of Angela Moves On; a silent sequence of 100+ roadside crosses. Jude has never conceived a small film, only dense repositories for bedded connotations—or, big films made up of small ones. With Do Not Expect, his jabs at the gig economy and brawny, bootless conglomerates ricochet like projectiles, taking out the producer, the product, and the viewer all at once.

Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World screens tonight, October 7, and throughout the New York Film Festival, its U.S. premiere.