Dir: Stephen Fingleton (2015)
The Survivalist in Stephen Fingleton‘s rather green post apocalyptic debut kills to survive. After the films bleak, graphical introduction (a blue line representing diminishing oil supplies and a red line representing our earth’s population) we are thrust into a lush livid landscape spattered with blood somewhere in Ireland. Martin McCaan is our man with no name, foraging for mushrooms, burning old photographs and blasting anyone who crosses his veggie patch. His methodical and untrustworthy nature, his tin cans and bear traps and his two remaining shotgun shells tell us more about his past 7 years surviving alone than any back story could and Fingleton steers well clear of doing so in this staggeringly dark BAFTA nominee.
When he’s discovered by the silver-haired Kathryn (Olwen Fouere) and her young daughter Milja (Mia Goth) first it’s seeds then it’s sex, just another bartering tool, a commodity which the pair have obviously used multiple times before, which ominously settles the three into the dark reality of The Survivalist. The future present here is a dog eat dog one and subsequently we’re never quite sure about the mother and her daughter. Even the straight razor in the sink holds a dark cloud over the film before Fingleton heads darker still when more starved wanderers threaten the trio.
A mere 5 or 6 pages of dialogue are used sparingly through The Survivalist with Fingleton opting for action, glances, camera moves and silence to emulate his hero Sergio Leone; Never more than in a brilliant overhead shot which uncovers something horrendous laid out in the flattened grass. McCaan, Goth and Fouere are all fantastic in this cold and unsentimental sci-fi but there is something unforgettable in this bold and challenging piece of work blending the master of the western with Andrei Tarkovsky’s hopelessness; It’s not a picture that many will want to re-see but the images and themes of The Survivalist present us with a clear and present danger which, in reality, we’ll never be able to take back.