Monday, October 20, 2014

Abel Ferrara's "4:44 Last Day on Earth": what it would be like if you knew exactly when the world would end


4:44 Last Day on Earth” (2011, directed by Abel Ferrara) is a somewhat brief apocalyptic drama, showing what the last day of life on Earth might be like if we knew that the world would come to an end suddenly.

Willem Dafoe plays Cisco, a second-tier actor, holed up in a modest Manhattan apartment in an older neighborhood with Skye (Shanyn Leigh), having some tender intimacies, dealing with familial and neighbor relationships, while pundits ranging from Al Gore to the Dalai Lama pontificate about our sins as a people, and news commentators try to stay on the air as long as possible.  One of them says “it doesn’t matter where you live or how much money you have.”  Skye comforts herself with her abstract painting (in blues and purples, as if she were a Jackson Pollock), and Cisco keeps loaning his Internet rig access to people wanting to connect with family all of the world. 

The cause of the catastrophe is said to be an opening of the ozone layer, although it’s hard to see how that would cause a mass extinction at a specific, predicted time.   AL Gore blames human activity and pollution.   Some people wonder if “they’re wrong.” Two hours before the end, there is a fireworks show.  Nevertheless, about an hour before the end (about an hour into this 85-minute film), northern lights (aurora borealis) start to appear, and winds pick up, and a bizarre haze settles in.  The Internet, and the power, start to go out about three minutes before the end.  As the film ends, the screen turns white, which it remains as the credits roll (printed in black, like on typical paper). 


The official site for the film is here (IFC). The film can be rented on YouTube but it's unusually pricey. 
    
Some disaster newscasts have speculated that a gamma ray burst could cause extinction of human life.  Some gamma rays may travel slighter slower than light and such an event might be predictable shortly after a supernova, but the closest star to us capable of such an outburst upon explosion is at least 8000 light years away, and most such stars are near the centers of galaxies.  Gamma ray bursts vary in content and strength, and can destroy the ozone layer, or cause most of the oxygen in the atmosphere to be consumed by nitrogen.  They may happen once every ten million years or so, but someday a future civilization might have to deal with one (Wikipedia article  )

Another idea could be the sudden loss of the Earth’s magnetic field, or a sudden pole shift, like in the novel “The HAB Theory” by Allan W. Eckert (1976), which I don’t recall being filmed. 
  
I can imagine a film, possibly an extended short (call it “Overnight”), where someone knows that this is his last day.  He finishes his self-publication on the computer, locks up the house, gets taken by van to a termination center.  He goes to a dinner and reception and then retires to a cabin-like room in a hotel.  He watches his life in a media center, and has one last chance to post online.  Then gradually, his access to media is taken away, and his own stuff is taken down.  The room darkens.  He has a last snack and last drink of water in the room alone, and lies down and dies.  Someone comes for the body, to haul it away for cremation. But then “he” wakes up in a similar room, and the windows open to show a community on another  planet.  The media comes back on, and he sees only the briefest summary of his previous life.  He is invited to a meeting, no food or drink, and finds out he is part of a “family of souls”.  He will be engaged “where he is”,  until he learns what kind of life he will lead next time to balance his karma.  In the very last scene, we learn Earth is approached by a death star, a brown dwarf.

Wikipedia attribution link for supernova picture 

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Alecia Us said...
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