Movie lovers at the Toronto International Film Festival will be treated to the world premiere of Endzeit, Carolina Hellsgård’s eco-conscious German horror film.
Not your typical zombie apocalypse movie, Mother Earth “serves an eviction order,” to mankind in the film.
Two years after a viral zombie epidemic has left only two German cities uninfected, 22-year-old Vivi (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) and 26-year-old Eva (Maja Lehrer) flee the brutal existence in Weimar and hop an automated train for the other supposed safe haven, Jena.
Unfortunately, the train unexpectedly stops mid-trip, leaving Vivi and Eva to reluctantly forge a bond as they make their way across a beautiful but zombified countryside in Thuringia (“the green heart of Germany”), towards the city and salvation at the other end of the line.
“Endzeit is a maximalistic female buddy movie set in the German apocalypse,” says Director Hellsgård. “It depicts the friendship of two young women, who are forced to emancipate themselves in order to survive. In the end a kind of love arises, not only to each other but to the fantastic nature surrounding them.
But Hellsgård’s Endzeit – based on the feminist zombie comic by Olivia Vieweg (who also wrote the script) – asks a question rarely asked in the zombie genre, “Why did this happen?” Eva, who rejects her role of state-sanctioned murderer, and Vivi, who clings to the notion of finding her missing little sister, become allies by necessity. And, in the heart of the wilderness, they discover doomsday is undergoing a strange evolution.
Some of the flesh-eating zombies have foliage apparently growing out of their faces. So does, “The Gardener” (Trine Dyrholm (currently playing the lead in NICO 1988)), a mostly-human caretaker of the environment who grows uncommonly robust vegetables with healing properties. Her message to the young women is that they may not be witnessing the end of the world, but the beginning of a better one.
“The Director of Photography, Leah Striker and I set out to make an exciting and captivating film,” says Director Hellsgård. “Endzeit is a mixture of different genres and conventions. It consists of action moments true to its the genre, as well as calmer and almost lyrical moments, where we follow the characters as they move through the lush and apocalyptic landscape.
“We deliberately choose a non-realistic and slightly elevated visual style,” notes Hellsgård. “Naturally, the work by set designer Jenny Roesler, as well as costume designer Teresa Grosser, influenced the imagery. Together, we’ve created a special look that I can best describe as a baroque, almost romantic, horror film style. The score by composer Franziska Henke, also underlines the romantic element in the film. The sound track is melancholic and at the same time captivating, and reflects nature as a powerful and invasive component.
“The film reflects upon our future existence, how we choose to live, and what our options will be in a world where nature strikes back. The aesthetics are inspired by the quirky and refreshing style of Olivia Viewegs graphic novel.”
Endzeit is an all-female work of horror, from its author to its director to its cast, producers and crew. It brings a much-needed change-up of sensibility and approach to a genre that has often fallen into repetition and predictability.
“Ultimately, we wanted to make a terribly beautiful movie, adds Hellsgård. “Leah always described it very fittingly: “like a beautiful and poisonous piece of candy”.