Cinema has long been fascinated with ending the world.
Cinema has long been fascinated with ending the
world. From Michael Bay blowing us all up, Roland
Emmerich obliterating us with alien attack, floods and climate change and
more recently Steve Carrel and Keira Knightley trying to laugh their
way through the inevitable in Seeking A
Friend For The End Of The World, it’s fair to say we’re all doomed. What
with it being 2012 and the prophesied date of the Apocalypse just around the
corner according to the ancient Mayans, Doomsday
Book is sneaking in just in time.
The film is a
three-part anthology of stories that chart the potential end of humanity,
although crucially not necessarily the end of the world. The first, Brave New World, sees a
young man, Yoon Seok-woo (Ryu Seung-beom),
left to his own devices while his family goes on holiday. While on a date with Kim Yoo-min (Ko Jun-hee) the pair eat pork that has
become infected due to recycled waste being fed to pigs. Before long the pair are spitting blood
and biting anyone nearby as a massive zombie outbreak occurs. The second story, Heavenly Creature,
sees robot RU-4 find religion while working in a Buddhist temple. The company responsible for building
the machine send an operative (Kang-woo Kim) to establish the problem
and soon learns that the robot has indeed found Enlightenment much to the
concern of the robotics company.
The third part, Happy Birthday, sees a young girl break her father’s
precious 8 ball, seven years later an asteroid heads to earth and as the family
take refuge in their bunker it dawns on them the asteroid may in fact be the
missing 8 ball.
If it all sounds slightly absurd, that’s clearly the
point. Dark humour and satire
underpins each story. It might not
be subtle but there’s a heavy dose of irony in Brave New World in which nature
takes its revenge on humanity for our carnivorous ways, meat from infected
factory farmed pigs turning humans into flesh-eating zombies. It’s certainly a more interesting, fun
take on nature’s revenge than M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening. Happy Birthday meanwhile is a strange
bag of surreal nuts with all manner of Terry Gilliam-esque crazy goings
on and eccentric characters.
The problem is none of the stories gel
together. Brave New World starts
funny, then degenerates into unpleasant body horror before flipping into a
zombie romance all too familiar from the likes of Shaun Of The Dead. Happy Birthday meanwhile is a fun piece
of nonsense, particularly the scenes with the newscasters rapidly losing
control of their emotions live on air.
But in the middle of this whacky sandwich is
Heavenly Creature. Easily the most
thought-provoking and interesting of the three tales, it simply doesn’t sit
right in the overall tone of the anthology. The prospect of a robot, a manufactured entity supposedly
ruled by logic, embracing religious belief resonates with the likes of Robert
Heinlein’s A Stranger In A Strange Land or Mary Doria Russell’s
The Sparrow. It evokes so many
wonderful themes and ideas you cannot help but wish directors Jee-woon Kim and Pil-Sung Yim had devoted an entire film
to this alone.
Without question Doomsday Book is a clever, thought-provoking piece of
cinema. A film that dares to
address issues many films shy away from.
But with so much going on, so many concepts and tones to try and
balance, you’re left with a feeling of frustrated confusion. It won’t herald the end of the world
but it’s unlikely to lead you to heavenly revelations either.