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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Luc Besson kickstarted his career with a striking, wordless doomsday movie

Illustration for article titled Luc Besson kickstarted his career with a striking, wordless doomsday movie

Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: In anticipation of the dystopian Aussie crime drama The Rover, check out these other post-apocalyptic visions.


The Last Battle (1983)

Unlike yesterday’s recommendation, The Last Battle doesn’t use dialogue to establish or distinguish its post-apocalyptic world. In fact, it doesn’t use dialogue to do anything, because there is none. The very first feature written and directed by French action mogul Luc Besson is 92 wordless minutes of life after the fall. Whatever unrevealed catastrophe decimated Earth’s population has also stolen the voices of those who remain. The survivors live short, desperate lives in the ruins of once-mighty cities; some are drafted into brutal, roving gangs, while others go it alone, beating back the barbarians at their gates. The film narrows its focus to three lost souls, depicting the friendship that develops between a solitary squatter (Pierre Jolivet) and an older doctor (Jean Bouise), who eventually join forces to defend their hospital home from The Brute (a young Jean Reno).

Strikingly shot on black-and-white 35mm and featuring an oddly whimsical score from Eric Serra (Besson’s regular composer), The Last Battle is one of the genre’s most minimalist offerings, its interest limited largely to the mundane, day-to-day activities of its characters. That’s not to say that it’s a small film, exactly. Besson, then in his early 20s, exhibits great ambition and resourcefulness in his fashioning of a dystopian warzone on a budget, relying heavily on abandoned, magnificently decayed buildings. His nascent directorial personality pokes through at odd intervals; one can see glimpses of the efficient action filmmaker Besson will become in a climactic showdown with the sword-wielding, bespectacled Brute. And a strong strain of humor—evident, for example, in the way the heroes attempt to communicate through burping—keeps the whole enterprise from ever overdosing on despair. Mostly, The Last Battle is a triumph of efficient visual storytelling. With images as good as these, who needs words?

Availability: The Last Battle is available on DVD, which can be purchased through Amazon, and to rent or buy digitally on iTunes.