'4:44 Last Day on Earth': end it all or stay and watch?

As the ozone layer disintegrates and the world prepares for certain doom in "4:44 Last Day on Earth", man is left with just one question: 'to be or not to be?', to commit suicide or stay and watch?

Hamlet's philosophical quandary plagues New Yorker Cisco, the protagonist in US independent filmmaker Abel Ferrara's latest film, in the running for Venice's Golden Lion with a world premiere screening on Wednesday evening.

There's an eerie calm on the Lower East side as residents wait for the end to come at 4:44 am the next morning. Last goodbyes are said by videophone, the Chinese takeaway man still delivers - only one man jumps off his balcony.

Unlike Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier's film "Melancholia," which explores the same themes and was a strong contender at Cannes Film Festival this year, there is no despair, denial or outrage in Ferrara's movie.

"One of the big questions is why isn't there more anger at the end," Ferrara said in an interview at one of the Lido island's luxury beach hotels ahead of the screening.

"We talked about images of destruction. But... there's disbelief, there's anger and in the end there's acceptance. Once you believe it's the end, what can you really do? Are you going break a window and steal a television set?

"I think people are going to go on with what they go on with," he said.

As the television presenter gives his last briefing - "Al Gore was right. We didn't listen and now it's too late" - Cisco, played by Willem Dafoe, and his young partner Skye, played by Shanyn Leigh, make love, eat and play.

While the spiritual Skye absorbs herself in painting to the strains of a debate on the existence of the physical world, Cisco struggles with a substance addiction and mulls over the choice between suicide and waiting for death.

"To be or not to be? It's 'to be', that's the answer," the director said. "Why are you going to kill yourself if the world is going to end at 4:44? You would have thought just out of curiosity you'd stick around."

But Ferrara's characters appear to lack any curiosity about the end. While television images show those with religious beliefs coming together to pray, individualism and banality reigns as humdrum existences are played out.

The time of the end of the world, 4:44, is a reference to the Chinese significance of the number four, which stands for death, Ferrara said. And if humanity does not act now, oblivion is coming, sooner or later, he added.

"Civilisations that are more advanced than ours have come crumbling down, so to think that what we have is beyond that, is earthquake proof, natural disaster proof or revolution proof, I think it's stupid," he said.

"We're responsible for the environment and the ozone. It begins in the mirror," he added, echoing the Dalai Lama's televised speech in the film urging humans to remember that "ultimately we are part of nature and its balance."

Though Dafoe - of "The English patient" and "Spider Man" fame - said the script did not "pop" for him the first time he read it, the issue of mortality in "4:44 Last Day on Earth" does have a personal resonance.

"I do think about my death all the time. Particularly around body functions and sex and eating, you know death is in the mix," he said.

"I'm a New Yorker, living down town, dealing with people - some who have problems with substance abuse or sex or problems with work. They seek. Spirituality, or at least that kind of talk."

Having witnessed the end of Earth, Dafoe's next stop is Mars, where he appears in the guise of a warring "Barsoomian".

Playing a 10-foot tall, multi-armed Martian in the upcoming Pixar movie, "John Carter," had been a riot, he said. "I did the whole movie on stilts!"

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea