After the Apocalypse
by Erin Paulson
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After the Apocalypse is a silent black and white film which tells the story of five survivors after a nuclear war. Unfortunately their situation is made even worse due to the existence of poisonous gas that inconveniently enough renders them speechless. The five strangers, after finding themselves in their strange and new environment, struggle to survive against the now overwhelming odds. Without speech, they must learn to communicate to each other through action. When the only female survivor becomes pregnant, the situation culminates with incredible emotion. Directed, written, and produced by Yasuaki Nakajima, Apocalypse is a film entirely dependent on its emotional expression to relate its story.
The story itself, for an extremely low-budget sci-fi film, is surprisingly quite believable. Though there is no dialogue whatsoever, the audience is able to understand that the plot is occurring after some unforeseen terrible tragedy, that has only left a few survivors. We feel the characters’ turmoil as they struggle to survive, largely due to the heartbreaking performances by Jacqueline Bowman and Yasuaki Nakajima. We understand their need for human companionship, love, food, and shelter, just as we all necessitate. After the Apocalypse successfully expresses the basic human desires and needs, the elements necessary to our survival that unite us all. Not only is it a tale of human survival, but it presents its theme in a unique and chilling way. Because the characters each are seeking the same essential elements of life, their diverse races seem entirely unimportant, throwing into stark contrast the racial divisions we are still experiencing today.
As a lover of silent and experimental films, I was decidedly looking forward to After the Apocalypse. Although the story is captivating, in some aspects I was left disappointed. In a black and white silent film the visuals are so vital to the communication of the story that they must far surpass any normal narrative film in order to keep the audience interested. However, I did not find this to be the case with Apocalypse. Though there were a few beautiful screenshots—there is a shot of Nakajima climbing naked into a bathtub in the middle of a field, with a fire extinguisher for its spout, that is particularly striking—the film as a whole is not what I would consider to be beautifully shot. There are even some shots which are overexposed. If there had been some obvious purpose or strategy for select scenes to be overexposed, then I could excuse it. But as the lack of correct exposure does not seem to be purposeful at all, I had an incredibly difficult time ignoring it—as I’m sure would any viewer.
Without question After the Apocalypse is unlike anything else in theatres today, and that alone should be enough to spark the curiosity of the ever-faithful art house theatre attendees.
Erin Paulson is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker in Chicago.
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