Berlin Golden Bear winner Radu Jude, whose latest feature, “Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World,” premieres Aug. 4 in competition at the Locarno Film Festival, is in post-production on his next film, Variety can reveal.
“Eight Postcards From Utopia” is a found-footage documentary assembled from advertisements made during the post-socialist period in Romania. Co-directed by Jude and the philosopher Christian Ferencz-Flatz, and edited by long-time collaborator Catalin Cristutiu, the film turns the fictional and often ludicrous medium of advertising clips into a lens on the desires, beliefs, hopes and fears of a country making the turbulent transition to democratic capitalism.
The documentary, which will be completed by the end of the year, is a continuation of a “preoccupation of mine about how images are constructed in the world,” Jude told Variety. “The use of images, the way they are made, the way they are used.”
The experimental film portrays how a country newly emerged from the deprivations of the socialist economy was suddenly, jarringly introduced to contemporary consumer culture, using ads that, through a variety of styles selling a range of products, depict a coherent fantasy world of fulfilled desires.
“These kinds of images offer the most fictionalized version of life, or society. They become after some years, in a paradoxical way, very important documents,” the director said. “You can see in them all these tendencies regarding a market economy, capitalism, desires, the fetishism of the merchandise — sometimes in really ludicrous ways, sometimes absurd, sometimes dirty.”
Produced by Alex Teodorescu of Bucharest-based Sagafilm, “Eight Postcards From Utopia” echoes many of the themes that run through Jude’s latest feature, “Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World” (pictured), an absurdist dramatic comedy about work, exploitation, death and the new gig economy.
Divided into two parts, the film follows an overworked and underpaid production assistant (Ilinca Manolache) who must drive around Bucharest to film the casting for a workplace safety video commissioned by a multinational company. In the film’s second half, one of her interviewees, played by Ovidiu Pîrșan, is forced to reinvent his story to suit the company’s narrative.
The result is a withering portrait of late-stage capitalism that’s no less sparing in its critiques of digital technology, nor of a movie industry whose heights the veteran filmmaker Jude has scaled.
Like many of his Romanian contemporaries, the director — who won the Golden Bear at last year’s Berlinale for his irreverent satire “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn” and a Silver Bear in 2015 for his Romanian Western “Aferim!” — cut his teeth as an AD working on foreign films shooting in the Eastern European nation.
It was during that period that he often witnessed the punishing lengths to which film crews are pushed, recalling recently the story of a technician whose complaints of exhaustion were ignored by his production manager. He died in a car accident after falling asleep at the wheel. “That’s an exemplary story. It has to do with capitalism, but it has to do more with the form this capitalism has in Romania,” Jude said. “These stories of exploitation, of over-working people, of class relations, stayed with me.”
In characteristic fashion, however, the director approaches those potentially imposing themes in his idiosyncratic way, introducing the audience to Angela (Manolache), a no-nonsense, chain-smoking blonde who drives in a sequined mini-dress while brushing off the chauvinistic insults lobbed at her by angry motorists.
When she’s not navigating the slow crawl of Bucharest traffic and trying to survive another punishing workday, she signs onto social media with her digital alter-ego to spew profanity-laced, Andrew Tate-style tirades against women — a coarse, provocative, irreverent performance that sets the tone for Jude’s offbeat exploration of where cinema, technology and capitalism collide.
“Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World” is produced by Ada Solomon of MicroFilm and Adrian Sitaru of 4 Proof Film and co-produced by Paul Thiltges Distributions, Les Films D’ici, Kinorama and MicroFilm. Heretic is handling world sales.
With his 10th feature, Jude says he’s becoming more of an “amateur” filmmaker, deconstructing the cinematic text to offer something that feels unfinished by design. “There’s something fertile in things which are not finished — in things which are not well-rounded, not well-polished,” he said. “[Amateurs] don’t create a perfect movie, they don’t create a perfect work of art, they don’t create a masterpiece. But maybe these films can open something else — options for how do you think about a film, how do you perceive it as a viewer. Many doors open in a film like that.”
After two decades of filmmaking, Jude added, his intention is “to provoke something in the viewer.” He continued: “Then they can come up with better things — better ideas, better interpretations, better films, maybe. Why not? If I create a bit of a reaction, then I’m happy. Even if the reaction is against the film, it doesn’t matter.”
The 76th Locarno Film Festival runs Aug. 2 – 12.