O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization Review

When the bombs drop and we’re all reduced to ashes or husks, many fear the fallout will be much worse for the survivors than the losers. O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization certainly seems to think so. For those that live through the explosions and calamity, they’ll apparently be forced underground. Cobbling together bits of the life they remember before the end, these characters struggle to formulate some sense of identity as they adapt to their below-surface way of living. They are driven to their most primate-like stances, their substance to life a limited and expressionless endeavour. Was there any change from before to after? Who knows, but the deplorable nature of these characters under the watchful eye of director Piotr Szulkin is marvellous.

His capacity to capture the brooding, shuffling horrors of this new lifestyle is tortured and presented well. Dimly lit halls and open spaces of ruined proportions see men and women shuffle around with no prospect or purpose. Juxtaposed by some jolly music or the inclusion of erratic, sudden trips of power (one character forces the other to bark like a dog for a can of non-descript food), O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization is determined to sink its teeth into its narrative. There is always the worry that they’ll bite off more than they can chew, but Szulkin seems to have a fairly tight grasp on the reigns. He shows that the average person is reduced to nothing more than survival instincts, fighting over scraps of food and water, and doing little else aside from that.

Soft (Jerzy Stuhr) is there to look on in horror. What else can he do? He is tasked with uncovering the mole behind the faux information leaflets, but it soon devolves from there. He is there to incite morale and make sure it never falters. It is hard to do that when everyone is so miserable and twisted. They are mulling over their thoughts, all of them, as they await the arrival of a mysterious entity known only as the Ark. It is not important what the Ark is, but what it represents. It is the hope for many, and Szulkin makes an attempt at utilising this as a reflection of those who need help in the hopeless, and what they may turn to. They are hungry for meaning and salvation, the Ark provides that to these characters, despite its apparent non-existence.

Szulkin realises it well enough, but the Ark and its effect on O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization does depend heavily on how well an audience will reciprocate it. For me, it is amicable enough but needs to go the extra mile. There is currency specific to the end of times, they are not trading in cash anymore, for they will not need it when the Ark arrives. Nice details such as this are the forte of Szulkin, but it overtakes the general strengths of the core narrative. Much to my dismay, there are many a desirable trait to be found within, and it is a fine apocalyptic drama, but it leaves much to be desired not from its worldbuilding, but from its message. People take solace in the darker corners of their mind when all hope is lost. Szulkin criticises this but offers no alternative or expression of sympathy, which is crucial to the darker times of O-Bi, O-Ba: The End of Civilization. 

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