The Apocalypse has arrived not with a bang but with a whimper.
In Patricia Rozema’s film, Into the Forest, the worldwide power grid has gone dead.
A massive solar flare from the sun? The “why” doesn’t really matter. Humans are now on their own for their own survival. Two teen sisters, Nell and Eva, live with their widowed father in a heavily tech-dependent home located in seclusion in a remote area of the woods near a small town.
Once the locals buy up all the remaining gas, food and other
supplies, the bucolic enclave becomes a sparsely inhabited ghost town, the residents having departed to seek assistance in the larger cities of the East Coast.
But Nell, Eva and Dad are doing OK, being dedicated back-to-nature environmentalists procuring their own food and adjusting to the new reality. Dad has one rifle for protection and hunting the wild boar that roam the woods.
There’s no longer a hospital, or ambulances, or doctors. Phones and radios are now worthless artifacts. They are a new type of family living in a new type of world.
Learn more about Rozema’s long career in this video essay!
This cautionary tale about a very possible civilization-ending event is equal parts hopeful and distressing. The back-to-nature knowledge of Dad and Nell make survival, at first, not only possible but attractive.
Then the lack of available emergency medical care turns the idyllic natural living into a nightmare. The final decision to wholly embrace a life of primitive survivalism and going deep into the forest makes the ending both hopeful and life-affirming but at the same time a frightening prospect.
That this story focuses not on the usual brave male defending his family against marauders, but instead on the two sisters adjusting to working out their differences and supporting each other in order to survive, is a rare thing of narrative beauty.
The unique perspective of female survival in the modern world, such as it is even without global disaster, is highlighted and commented upon in this story. Women must forever
be wary of any male’s possible ulterior motives, and the overwhelming strength of male violence must be weighed in every social situation, no matter the surface harmlessness of the social interaction.
Women must always be aware of the possibility of sudden violence arising in a way that men never have to seriously consider in their day to day existence.
The characters face a major personal, political and philosophical conundrum in this story, but they arrive at a sort of transformative redemptive act over evil and an act of defiance against the violence of the world itself.
This aspect of the essentially feminist story, as a point of debate for viewers, is as striking as the question of whether or not it would be worth trying to survive a dying planet.
Rozema bravely frames and executes this topic in her film.