October 5, 2023

THE LAST ISLAND...and the Last People?

1990 / 101 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😺

I’ve really enjoyed discovering the films of Dutch filmmaker Marleen Gorris, three of which have been released this year on Blu-ray by Cult Epics. The first, 1982’s A Question of Silence, was an incendiary debut about three women who are total strangers that impulsively team up to murder a man they don’t know. The next one, Broken Mirrors, juggles two concurrent storylines, the bleak daily life in a brothel and a serial killer who imprisons women then starves them to death.

Both films are presented from a feminist point of view, with themes related to the marginalization of women. But as unique and compelling as they are, The Last Island might be my favorite, mainly because Gorris incorporates two of my favorite genres - disaster and survival - while still addressing similar issues. Her dialogue is a little clunkier this time around (maybe because this one’s shot in English?) but a gripping story with apocalyptic implications more than compensates.

As it opens, an airliner has crashed on a deserted island, leaving only seven survivors…five men, two women (eight if you count the dog). It’s suggested that a global catastrophe has also occurred, though that’s never fully confirmed by any characters or subsequent events. What ultimately matters to the narrative is that these people are increasingly convinced they’re the last ones left on Earth.

"Hey! You can't park here!"
At first, they’re making a pretty good go at coping with their situation. With the exception of lecherous douchebag Jack (Ian Tracey), everyone gets along fairly well. That begins to change as they feel increasingly isolated, especially overtly-religious military man Nick (Kenneth Colley), who grows dangerously unstable. As base instincts kick in, decisions are put forth regarding life and death, such as killing a gangrenous man to end his agony (though he doesn’t want them to), and informing the group’s lone young female, Joanna (Shelagh McLoad), that she needs to bear children to assure the continuation of the human race. 

Tellingly, these suggestions are all made by men. While their intentions may be honorable, even logical, it's no accident that Joanna and the other woman of the group, Mrs. Godame (Patricia Hayes), are the only two who advocate for an individual’s right to choose…even under these circumstances. Furthermore, they retain their humanity while others descend into barbarism.

Watching the group (thus, civilization) come apart at the seams is a fascinating journey, punctuated by well-realized characters, excellent performances and bursts of jarring violence. With great production design and cinematography, The Last Island is the most visually striking of the Gorris films I’ve reviewed. So it’s kind of a shame the print used for this Blu-ray couldn’t be fully restored. Scratches and blemishes frequently pop up throughout the film. Still, it’s a visceral, emotionally harrowing experience, capped by a wonderfully ironic denouement.



VINTAGE BEHIND-THE-SCENES FEATURETTE - About half of it is footage of the crew disassembling and hauling an actual airplane to the location.

INTERVIEW - With political columnist Annemarie Grewel (from 1990).

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Peter Verstraton.




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