A Post-Apocalyptic Feminist Gothic Fairy Tale
“Ever After” is set two years after zombies have overrun Earth. This, therefore is a fantasy. Two young women, Vivi and Eva, develop an unlikely friendship in order to survive. They are stranded in the no-man’s land of the Black Forest and they have to rely and depend on each other and on nature as they try to find a more humane world. However, that they have survived has unleashed demons from their past that they now must face. Finally, love comes not only for each other, but also for the world surrounding them. The director, Carolina Hellsgård has said that “Endzeit” or Ever After” is a reflection of our future existence, how we choose to live, and what our options will be in a world where nature strikes back.
Have you thought about what do you do when the future holds nothing and you attempt only basic survival? What happens when your world has shrunk to a handful of strangers, none of whom have much hope that life will be improving in anyone’s lifetime? One’s memories consist of nothing but one terrible mistake so do you make the most of the situation, or dare to do something drastic, even if it might cost you your life?
Director Carolina Hellsgård and writer Olivia Vieweg explore these philosophical questions in this film. They use a viral outbreak and the collapse of civilization as a starting point and the story take these issues about how we should live out our final days into a dangerous wilderness and its effect on two very different women. In the years following this zombie-like apocalypse, there are two cities that have managed to remain whole: Weimar and Jura. In Weimar, Vivi (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) is haunted by memories of her sister (who is presumed dead in the disaster), and so she volunteers to help repair the perimeter wall. While there, she meets Eva (Maja Lehrer), a hardened veteran who nevertheless still tries to keep hope alive. After they both have gruesome deaths, they find themselves on the same automated train, in a possibly vain and definitely dangerous attempt to get to Jura.
What follows is a strange horror fairy tale adventure, as Vivi and Eva reveal their true reasons for escape, and face the nightmare of wild zombies, and the beauty of the earth that has now been reclaimed by nature. Eva is well-used to protecting herself from these creatures, and reluctantly helps Vivi, who too often collapses into hysterics because of her sheltered life and being traumatized by her sister’s death.
When they are not avoiding or fighting the zombies, Vivi and Eva slowly make their way to Jura, speaking about why they should keep going in a world with no meaning, trapped in either one city or another, where even basic survival is not sure.
Nature is taking over this world; not just over the buildings and humans but also littering the ground in obsolescence. Vivi and Eva meet a woman who is part-plant, who seems to be a new hybrid of human and nature and she insists that this is the future of humankind, now at the will of nature, instead of the opposite.
“Ever After” is at its best during its quiet, contemplative moments. The gorgeous cinematography by Leah Striker that puts this resurgence of nature in the glorious light and color it so deserves. We realize that even if Vivi and Eva reach the great city, it is perhaps time to leave it behind.
The film claims to be a modern zombie movie with almost an entirely female cast and women fulfilling every meaningful creative role behind the camera. Maja Lehrer is absolutely wonderful as Eva. She makes her a commanding, rebellious, and vulnerable figure, often all at the same time. Gro Swantje Kohlhof is appropriately withdrawn and childlike as Vivi, but she nicely hints at some character growth over time.
Hellsgård works with a lot of fairy tale themes and motifs, but she makes it work. The film is ambitious and filled with talent.