Au Bout Du Monde (1999) dir. Konstantin Bronzit
We all know what the end of the world looks like, but how do you live at the ends of the earth? Or maybe the question is not “how,” but “why, why?”
NOTE: The above link has a solid 90 seconds of weird logo shit before the short begins and the video quality is fairly poor to boot — if possible, use this Facebook link instead and just remember to close it before the algorithm starts blasting you with garbage.
“Au bout du Monde” was “aggressively pushed around the film festival circuit” by its French distribution company, according to Wikipedia, and that’s how I saw it 24 years ago. And I can report it killed at my screening, it certainly stayed with me. It’s certainly perfect festival-bait in a lot of ways — linguistically it’s largely gibberish so no translation woes, there are no real stakes but lots of funny consequences, it offers a foreign perspective (sophisticated!) that is still easy to understand (not “vegetables!”). There may be allegory here, but sometimes coprophagia is just coprophagia.
But writer/director Konstantin Bronzit is just extremely good at filmmaking here. In particular he uses the fixed perspective of the camera not just for the well-known (yet underused these days) technique of showing comedy in the wide shot, but as a pedal point for that comedy’s rhythm. The house itself is almost a metronome, tipping back and forth, and the various characters are notes and motifs. They harmonize — or more accurately, purposefully clash — in different ways, while that rhythm ever so slowly increases before it hits double and then triple time. That escalation is what makes this not just funny but hilarious, and it has all the more force for the slow buildup in our unbroken view of the scene.
Until the coda, which seems to start things all over — second verse, same as the first — before literally slamming the door. Here the answer to “why?” is “because it’s funny,” and that’s all you need.