There are not a lot of films like End of Animal. In fact, I can only think of one other film that’s even somewhat like it, and that would be the Japanese film Last Days of the World. It’s a low-budget, post-apocalyptic, and generally weird movie centered around a pregnant woman with a whole lot of bad luck. It’s a very difficult film to comprehend, but it is certainly an experience.
End of Animal (Jimseungwei Ggeut)
Director: Sung-Hee Jo
Release Date: TBD (Limited NYC 10/11/11)
Country: South Korea
Although End of Animal‘s plot is relatively straightforward, the way it plays out is anything but. A pregnant young woman Sun-Yeong is trying to get home to see her mother when some sort of apocalypse happens. Everything electrical ceases to function (a reference to Ocean’s Eleven is one of the funnier moments in the film) and people just disappear in a flash. The only functioning electronic device is a walkie talkie left for Sun-Yeong by a mysterious man in a puffy blue coat and an orange baseball cap. He uses it to communicate with her and give her advice on how to survive, but she ignores pretty much everything he says.
After she finds herself without any kind of transportation, Sun-Yeong decides to walk (despite her pregnancy) to the nearest rest area. She meets a young kid who brags about being the toughest kid at his school, an incredibly unpleasant woman who takes most of her things, and a guy with nebulous intentions who promises to take her to her destination. Each of the characters is interesting, although few of them are likable. A few of them are insignificant in the long run (some go off and are never seen again), but they all have a place in this new, empty world, and they add (or detract) from it in some interesting way.
The acting itself is good but nothing particularly special. It’s definitely not bad, but sometimes the characters seemed off in the wrong way. It was not always clear if the problems were with the actors or the characters. Lee Min-Ji, who plays Sun-Yeong, is the most notable, given that her character undergoes some pretty significant transformations over the course of the film, and they seem (relatively) natural. Kim Young-Ho, who played the taxi driver, also did a good job portraying a character who, in some ways, is just as unlucky as Sun-Yeong herself.
Technically speaking, the film is not very good. It is incredibly clear that the production budget was next to nonexistent. All of the camerawork is handheld and you can hear the footsteps of the cameraman (although it’s not as distracting as you might think), and the lighting is pretty terrible (most obviously in a scene lit by a candlelight). There is also no soundtrack, which is kind of cool. It fits with the low budget and it gives an extra weight to the moments which actually bring out emotion.
And those moments absolutely exist. Although the whole thing is convoluted, Sun-Yeong’s tale is tragic as hell, and it’s honestly affecting to see what happens to her. She starts off well enough, but by the end she is an absolute mess, and it’s honestly sad. The quality from scene to scene is variable, but there are times when the plot is so gripping (the opening scene springs to mind) even if little is actually happening. Those are the moments that make End of Animal worth seeing.
There is so much to say about the film, both good and bad, but none of it really matters unless you experience it for yourself. There are major problems with the film, and the ending leaves you with nothing at all, but that’s irrelevant. You should see End of Animal if you get the chance. It’s got heart, and with such a low-budget production, that’s all you can really ask for.