In most lifeboat scenarios, it is women and children first. That is not necessarily the case for the hypotheticals one philosophy class will grapple with. Logic will be the first thing thrown over the side in John Huddles’s “After the Dark,” which opens Friday, Feb. 7, in select theaters.
The elite philosophy class of Jakarta’s Western school for wealthy expats is a little put out having to do work on the final day of class, but Mr. Zimit is playing hardball with their grades. They will each draw a profession from his box and then vote on who gets a place in the bomb shelter. There are 20 of them and enough air and provisions in the bunker for 10.
As their “thought experiments” play out, we see the survivors interacting, like rats trapped in a cage, but since they are all just jawing back in their Jakarta classroom, where is all this melodrama coming from?
The basic premise is intriguing, but the execution is a logical shipwreck, starting at the top with Mr. Zimit. Supposedly he wants his students to think like philosophers, but it is more like he is training them to be actuaries.
You’re a gelato maker—sorry, not much earnings potential there. In a running gag, Zimit summarily executes the poor shmuck stuck being the poet before selection even begins, because he so obviously lacks utility. Really, that is what a philosophy teacher thinks of poetry?
I put it to you, Mr. Zimit: Any philosophy instructor who neglects the age-old philosophic study of aesthetics is a substandard teacher who therefore must relinquish his role in deciding who will live and who will die.
Regardless, Sophie Lowe is surprisingly good as star pupil Petra. The whole class is ridiculously attractive, but the girls generally sound more convincingly like members of a gifted-and-talented class than the meathead guys. Yet, the film’s real trump card is the Indonesian locales that add a distinctively surreal feeling that helps forestall all the questions regarding logical inconsistencies.
Have you ever woken up at night with what feels like a brilliant idea, but thought otherwise once you read your scribbled notes in the morning? That probably happened to Huddles, except he still thought it was a fine notion and proceeded to film it.
There is a germ of something here, but he should have given his subconscious more time to kick it around. However, Russian audiences evidently disagreed, making it a surprise box office champion over several studio films.
A head-scratcher all the way around, “After the Dark” releases in select theaters and on video-on-demand this Friday, Feb. 7.
Joe Bendel writes about independent film and lives in New York. To read his most recent articles, please visit www.jbspins.blogspot.com
‘After the Dark’
Director: John Huddles
Starring: Sophie Lowe, James D’Arcy, Rhys Wakefield
Run Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Release Date: Feb. 7
2.5 stars out of 5