A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema

By Charles P. Mitchell | Go to book overview
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Quiet Earth (1985)

Rating: **** Threat: Alteration of the electron

Mr. Yellowbeard Productions. Written by Bill Baer, Bruno Lawrence & Sam Pillsbury based on the novel Quiet Earth by Craig Harrison; Photographed by James Bartle; Special effects by Addenbrook; Edited by D. Michael Horton; Music by John Charles; Produced by Sam Pillsbury & Don Reynolds; Directed by Geoff Murphy. 100 minutes.


Bruno Lawrence (Zac Hobson, New Zealand scientist); Alison Routledge (Joanna, woman who befriends Zac); Peter Smith (Api, truck driver who joins Zac & Joanne); Anzac Wallace (man who tries to drown Api); Norman Fletcher (Perrin, scientist who oversees Project Flashlight); Tom Hyde (scientist who lectures on videotape).


This is a thoughtful, intelligent film made in New Zealand. The narrative unfolds in a very subtle manner, with important bits of information scattered throughout the picture. For example, a quick close-up of an object in one scene has no relevance until much later in the film. The same is also true of certain lines of dialogue. It requires multiple viewings to understand many elements of the story. The script plays a clever guessing game with the viewers, only revealing certain points after dropping a number of hints. For the synopsis, I am abandoning this sophisticated technique to relay the plot in a more linear fashion.

Zac Hobson is a scientist in New Zealand who is working on a complicated process to create a world power grid called Project Flashlight. This experiment would allow energy to be transmitted instantly to any location. Airplanes in flight would no longer need fuel, for example, because their engines would be fed directly through the power grid. This same concept, in a different form, was actually used in the serial Manhunt of Mystery Island (1945). Hobson detects much danger in this undertaking, and he comes to believe the American developers of the process may be withholding important information about the possible side effects. Hobson is so upset by his fears that he decides to take his own life with an overdose of sleeping pills.

The film proper opens with the audience unaware of any of this background, as Zac is lying motionless in his bed at home. At precisely 6:12 A.M., the fabric of the entire planet undergoes a change on the molecular level. Zac opens his eyes and begins to get dressed. He makes a phone call, but there is no response. He drives down the road and stops at a gas station, which no one is attending. He looks around the back of the station, and shuts off a pot of coffee, which is


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A Guide to Apocalyptic Cinema
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