German Director Leonel Dietsche’s debut film, ENDE NEU (or, The New End) is set in a dystopian future where men far outnumber women. As you can imagine, the world in ENDE NEU is not a nice place to live, driven by violence and other horrible acts best left unmentioned. The seasons are frozen in perpetual dank cold and disease has left only the strongest alive.
The Mother and Daughter live on a secluded island in the middle of a forest river. When the mother falls ill, her Daughter must leave the island and find something to help her, but once in the world of men, things go badly.
The first thing that grabs you right off the bat with ENDE NEU is its striking photography. The film paints absolutely breathtaking pictures of its bleak, depressing landscapes. There’s a pervasive griminess that just jumps off the screen, with its characters looking appropriately downtrodden and smeared with filth. There’s not a single smirk or smile to be found here unless you count a slightly maniacal one. This is dour stuff.
The second thing that’ll grab you is the score. Reminiscent of something by Vangelis or Tangerine Dream, the synth backing that extends throughout the film creates a dark and mysterious mood in that way which seemed second nature through the ’80s.
Most of ENDE NEU’s story is told via expository narration. Visually, a lot is left to our imagination, most likely for budgetary reasons. Unfortunately, this hurts the overall effect the story may have had otherwise. I understand why they did it, but I would have preferred the filmmakers find cleverer ways to flesh out the world.
The characters themselves are also not particularly deep. This may have been intentional, as the film only ever refers to them with the most basic of monikers like: ‘Mother”, “Daughter”, “Dwarf”, or “Warlord”. But this becomes a problem when trying to relate with them. We never get to know them beyond their appearance. There’s nothing to grab on to with these characters that bring us along on their journey. They desperately needed to be colored in a little more intricately to make us care.
There’s a lot of potential in the story, and it’s clear the filmmaker wanted to say something about male violence and violence against women, however, there’s not enough here to be worthy of much post-discussion. The ideas come across as being more of a sketch than an essay, and with the film being only an hour and 7 minutes long before the credits roll, it’s hard to imagine they were ever really going to be able to explore these themes in any adequate depth.
The film succeeds at being an intermittently attention-grabbing atmospheric piece but fails at any loftier ambitions it might have had. It’s dark and somber in a way that only Germany could pull off, but only in the shallowest of ways. There’s something more inside ENDE NEU that’s trying to escape, but I find it hard to recommend what’s here simply because it never quite finds its way out.