The end credits of writer-director Matteo Scarfò’s low-key post-apocalypse movie feature a nod to J.G. Ballard – who might have prompted the notion of societal breakdown expressed as much through the fracturing of survivors’ minds as the ruined or abandoned settings.
Andrea (Andrea Lupia), a literal paper-shuffling bureaucrat, has been removed from a city in meltdown due to undefined acts of terrorism and – after passing a sophisticated yet misleading lie detector test/interview conducted by a white-eyed robot in a striped trouser suit – removed to Zone 13, a supposed safe area where refugees are to be rehoused … only very few turn up to take advantage of the security of what looks like a desolate suburb, and they are fleeing from their own pasts by taking on new identities. A woman (Alessandra Mortelliti) who used to be a terrorist tries to be helpful, a custodian (Danilo Rotundo) with an even more shadowy past now spends his days lamenting the lack of plastic rubbish sacks and an old couple are seldom seen. Drama plays out among these inexpressive people, though most hints as to how they’ve ended up here remain vague … but the dominant image is of the neatly-dressed, inexpressive Andrea trudging along cracked roads with his briefcase or shuffling files in his office, going through the motions of an absurd employment which probably never had much meaning.
Embedded in the daily round of gloomy robotic repetition are flashbacks which show (slightly) livelier versions of the characters in the run-up to the collapse. Buttoned-down Andrea was in the orbit of Stefano (Alessandro Damerini), a gun-toting financial player who goes more spectacularly mad than the rest of the cast and – it has to be said – brings a bit more interest to a film which is generally too introspective and uneventful for its own good. Lupia is excellent as the impassive, Ballardian viewpoint character – scarcely a protagonist, let alone a hero – and sequences of ambient, observational numbness convey the feeling of a world after its own end credits, winding down rather than burning up, plus one or two moments of more conventionally engaging science fiction business (the robot interviewer and her antique table lie detector are genuinely creepy). Too remote to win many friends, but worth a look for its crumbling concrete abandonment.