WHAT’S LEFT OF US
What you take from watching Christoph Behl’s zombie film What’s Left of Us will in many ways be determined by what you bring to it. Approaching this starkly realised vision of a dystopian future with any number of preconceptions determined by the bloated history of zombie films may render the experience frustratingly melancholic. Approaching Behl’s film with an open mind, one ready to absorb a troublingly believable depiction of claustrophobic tension will be offered something entirely different. This is a film that challenges the viewer to engage with characters in a situation horrifyingly understandable.
Ana (Almeida), her apparent boyfriend Jonathan (Prociuk) and their friend Axel (Delgado) are holed up in a barricaded apartment following a zombie holocaust, one that they presume has wiped out the rest of mankind. With dwindling supplies supplemented by occasional, necessary excursions outside, and unavoidably living in extremely close proximity, tensions inevitably begin to rise. The capture of a zombie and his subsequent presence causes further rifts in the friendship as the situation becomes increasingly untenable.
Behl’s greatest achievement has been in placing the viewer right in the apartment with his trio of survivors, with the camera unflinching in its invasiveness as it observes their daily routine. At times it takes the viewpoint of one of the group, encouraging you to imagine what they are thinking, lending discomfort and reluctant judgement to the scene. At other times the camera seems to sit dispassionately in the corner, watching with cold voyeurism as tense interaction replaces the group’s initial collective strength.
The performances themselves are spellbinding, creating the deep empathy required to appreciate the characters’ situation while still struggling to fully understand their motives. Each has their own burden to bear, but their strained love for each other, which takes different, at times violent, forms over the duration of the film, binds them together into a dysfunctional family unit.
The characters’ steady decline as they stumble along not knowing what the future may hold reflects the decay that is central to Behl’s narrative. Their closeted world is crumbling around them and the need for stimulation leads to the capture of a zombie, whose seeming indestructibility becomes central to their plight. This then brings us back to the initial point; interpretation. There are many elements to consider; ambiguous characters, the constant drinking, annoying, persistent flies, and potentially damaging secrets with honesty only possible through the recording of video diaries. Like a fragmented stage play, everything plays out in this most restrictive of settings until the pressure inevitably needs a release. Reflecting all this perfectly is a soundtrack that feels like a constant buzzing, as if the flies themselves have settled in your ears, and which further enhances the unsettling atmosphere.
What’s Left of Us is not a perfect film, but it contains many of the hallmarks of being one. Just as many viewers will dislike Behl’s vision as engage with it, although the film’s impact is undeniable. What Behl has done is produce a debut feature that doesn’t set out to please everyone, and one that refuses to offer answers to the questions it raises. Ultimately that’s down to the viewer. All the pieces are present; how you put them together is up to you.
Special Features: None
INFO: CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: CHRISTOPH BEHL / SCREENPLAY: CHRISTOPH BEHL / STARRING: VICTORIA ALMEIDA, WILLIAM PROCIUK, LAUTARO DELGADO, LUCAS LAGRE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW