Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Endless (2017)


Let's suppose that on New Year's Eve last year some unfortunate event occurred (probably also rather unpleasant) and you found yourself shunted back to the beginning of the month. And then again, and again. 

It would only take a moment's reflection to comprehend what that would entail on both a personal and more inter-personal scale. There would be the matter of Donald Trump as a bitter and twisted, lame duck President, forever. And depending on one's geographical location there would be restrictions to endure, endlessly, like not being able to get mullered with one's mates at the pub or hug (and thus possibly euthanise) granny. 

This scenario is, if I may be so bold, marginally more interesting than the one at the heart of The Endless which asks how much '...and repeat' could be deemed preferable to the finitude of what vampires dread as the True Death

Infinite temporal loops have become more usually a trope of movie comedies, with Groundhog Day as the generic term. In last year's Palm Springs we witnessed the standard set-up with some of the characters aware that they are loopy, but almost everybody else not. 

Part of the trouble here is that we see characters temporally re-setting with what appears to be at best partial awareness, and this adds an element of that sort ambiguity that goes by the name of befuddlement. For we do kind of need to know what the cost is in terms of freedom of action.

I suppose the screenplay for this film began with the thought 'Say there was this UFO death cult, and...' yet the trouble is that the scenario imposes constraints on the central conundrum that are, in the main, unhelpful. 

And the two main protagonists (played by the writer-directors themselves) indulge in a debate about whether to accept the terms of the loop that sounds like a pair of corporate bean counters debating whether it is time to shut down the Manchester office. 

We watched this almost like consuming the starter after the main course that was Synchronic, the newest output from Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. For that film they'd presumably been given more money and some better known actors as surrogates for their own double-act, yet the fundamental deficiencies were repeated. 

Both stories need bigger characters; a bigger situation. And both address one of life's greatest metaphysical mysteries in a way that feels under-accomplished, like a B+ essay.  That we exist in what could be an infinite reality full of finite material stuff is a thought that deserves just a bit better than this. 

(If this had been pitched to me, I'd have said 'TV show'.) 

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