The reflex act of ordering, in a supermarket, a product that we do not find on the shelves contains a number of beliefs. That not having the product in front does not mean that there is not more, that there is a machinery that we do not see that maintains the flow of supply, that to consume it is enough to ask and that, in short, society works because it works. Collapse, A French series recently released on Filmin, dismisses all these assumptions. In the supermarket where the first chapter begins, the clerk has no response to the hordes of customers who demand products with an increasingly strained voice. There are constant blackouts. Credit cards have stopped working. Gas stations have sold their last liter of fuel: a mistake, actually, because money seems to be a more insignificant concept every day next to a package of five kilos of rice. Is it the end of the world. The invisible machinery has ceased to exist. What we have before us is all there is. We are heading towards the Stone Age, one full of abandoned cars on the road.
Made in 2019 by a trio of young directors known as Les Parasites, the series has found a new life in Spain this week to the point of having become a small and unexpected phenomenon of the streaming. Viewed from 2020, what might seem like an apocalyptic exercise of imagination, well documented and well thought out, is rather the embodiment of the worst nightmares unleashed by the pandemic before a world that has been less robust than we expected.
The series does not have a protagonist or takes place in a specific place: it shows the consequences of the collapse of civilization week by week, in different and wisely chosen places. The Marras supermarket exhibits the first days of shock; a gas station serves to illustrate the move to panic; The first attempts at organization lead a millionaire – the only social class unaccustomed to having no answers – to an airstrip. No one knows exactly what is happening and we are not told either. In total, there are eight chapters, 15 to 20 minutes long, shot in a sequence shot or in several long shots that combine the documentary thoroughness of Chernobyl with the apocalyptic terror of Years and years, two of the most viewed series last year.
Les Parasites are a collective of independent filmmakers, drawn from the Paris School of Audiovisual Creation and Filmmaking (EICAR for its acronym in French) who since 2013 have specialized in short films, most of which are then posted on YouTube. That ability to tell things briefly works in their favor here: the dialogues that expose the particular problems of each chapter are short and painless, which is not usually the case in this type of stories, let alone in those that play with an ecological message. . And not having a clear protagonist helps to keep the suspense: it is never entirely clear who will fail, who will survive, or, better yet, who will end up receiving our sympathies.
The budget was two million euros for eight chapters (a Spanish series usually invests between half and one million euros per chapter: here they have been 250,000 euros). This is not a spectacular post apocalypse like War of the Worlds from Spielberg. It is small, chaotic, confusing and dirty (it does share with the American the tendency to underscore in dialogue the intention of its creators, as when someone at the gas station regrets: "They are not supply problems, they are problems of a shitty society" ).
There is no clear reason for the collapse that gives the series its title. There are scenes that seem to cite the theory of Olduvai, created in 1989 by the physicist Richard C. Duncan, who said that industrial civilization would exhaust its resources when it was one hundred years old and that humanity would end up living a second Stone Age, advocated by electrical blackouts , from 2012. But Les Parasites are not interested in explaining. It doesn't matter what happened, what sold out first, whose fault is it. The true terror is to show where we will fall the day the net disappears under our feet.