Endzeit (Ever After) is a gorgeous, haunting, intimate, and hopeful German zombie film that gives the apocalypse a bit of a fairytale-like twist. The film – which features women in every role of the creative team and in every lead role – was featured as part of TIFF 2018’s Discovery programming.
The story was developed from a wonderful graphic novel of the same name by Olivia Vieweg – who also came on board to write the film’s screenplay.
I sat down with Writer Olivia Vieweg and Director Carolina Hellsgård to discuss nature, the apocalypse, and being a woman in film
Kelly McNeely: So the film has an all-female creative team, and all-female lead characters, which I absolutely love. What was the experience like of working in that all-female creative environment?
Carolina Hellsgård: Well for me it’s something very natural, it’s not necessarily a political statement, I just always work with a lot of women. The colleagues that made Endzeit with me were all amazing. I just enjoyed this time we had together. We worked very well together!
Kelly: The film has a distinct feeling of creation, not just destruction. It’s kind of a balance of the two.
Olivia Vieweg: Yeah, exactly. We’re hoping that it has a more optimistic outlook than other apocalyptic films. We also believe that there’s some opportunities in the apocalypse and we should kind of embrace that chaos, to a certain extent. There’s a possibility to coexist with each other and with nature that we might not have explored.
Kelly: Nature plays a very big part in the film and the story. Where it’s filmed – mostly outdoors – is absolutely gorgeous. Were there any challenges of filming in that environment, doing so much outdoors?
Carolina: We were just joking about that, when Olivia was writing it…
Olivia: When I was writing the script I normally sit in my pajamas at my desk and write with my tea, very comfy. I wrote that the story takes place in summer, and everything is outside. When I got to the set for the first time I realized that about 60 people have to do this film… it was hard! It was about 40-45 degrees or something, and they were all sunburned! I realized ok, maybe I should feel sorry for what I did? But I don’t [laughs].
Carolina: It was fun, at times, but it was hard. It was a hard shoot. I was really worried about the weather all the time – it was raining and when it wasn’t raining I couldn’t really enjoy the sun. I was just looking at the sun, like, “Why doesn’t it ever set!? Just go down!”, it was really staring at us. It was very apocalyptic. It was so hot!
Towards the end, we were in September, and suddenly there was a weather change. Like, oh, this is Fall. It was freezing and raining… so that was it. We wrapped the film on a very, very rainy, dark night in Weimar about a year ago. And I was like, “Wow. That was that summer”. It was extremely hot, then cold, then we wrapped. [laughs]
Kelly: So the script was adapted from [Olivia’s] comic. How did [Carolina] find the graphic novel? Did you know each other before?
Carolina: The production company sent me Olivia’s script and I loved it. I really loved it. So we met, and we talked – quite a lot – then we met again. Then they decided that I would be a good fit to direct it.
Kelly: What were your influences and inspirations when writing – as well as filming?
Olivia: I was inspired by a well-known Italian movie called Io Non Ho Paura (I’m Not Scared). I really liked this film.
Carolina: I didn’t know you were inspired by this!
Olivia: It’s about children in South Italy, and all the fields are yellow. Such a bright yellow! It’s like nature is a protagonist because it’s so intense. There is a horror plot also, which you don’t expect at the beginning. It was so terrifying, but was so beautiful! When I wanted to do something, this was my role model, kind of.
Carolina: I didn’t even know that!
Olivia: I love this film. The combination between so beautiful but also afraid of everything… this combination really inspired me.
Carolina: It’s really good!
Kelly: The entertainment industry is pretty male-dominated. What perspectives do you think women bring into the horror genre, or what does female representation in film – as a whole – mean to you?
Carolina: I think it is very important that we discuss why women are under-represented in this industry. Not only in horror films, but in the whole industry. Like, what really is going on. Why aren’t there more women?
In Germany, people always say that – in the film schools – it’s very 50/50. And the women excel in this environment and they make films that go to festivals and win awards, and then they just disappear.
We have to look into that. Why is that the case? I’m very much for regulating tax money, I think this should be a 50/50 split for film financing. Private money, you can’t do anything about that. So it’s up to people’s own moral standards to work towards change.
But I think if we had a 50/50 regulation, we would stop talking about the content. Because that’s often a problem – people talk about the content of the films. They say women do more of these kinds of films, or talk about quality… but it’s really not about quality. It’s about the fact that women – of course – have other experiences than men, but maybe we can’t even pinpoint what these experiences are about. So let’s move this discussion up to a structural level and say that they have the same rights as men to work and earn money, and to put out films.
Kelly: So what’s next for you both?
Carolina: I’m shooting another film – in four weeks, based on my own script – in Spain.
Olivia: Next year I’m doing another graphic novel for the same publisher, and I just wrote a concept for a teenage dance flick.
Carolina: It’s really cool! I think it’s going to blow up.
Olivia: It’s really cool, yeah, I hope this will be my next project. I think it will also be pretty expensive with special effects with holograms… but I really, really like the idea. I always like young protagonists. That’s kind of my thing.