Patrons of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre were in for a treat on Saturday October 21, as a special one-off screening of 2016 film Diani and Devine Meet the Apocalypse was accompanied by question & answer with Diani and Devine themselves.
Funded through a kickstarter campaign and developed slowly between 2013 and 2015, the film and its creators were presented here as part of its inclusion in the recent Routes to Roots Film Festival in Simcoe, Ontario. With little more than a $100,000 budget, the process of making the film was slow, and full of workarounds and ingenious solutions. The result is a charming and thoroughly hilarious film that truly stands out in its genre.
As the name implies, Diani and Devine Meet the Apocalypse, follows its titular characters’ (played by filmmakers and comedian couple Gabriel Diani and Etta Devine) struggle with the end times. However, one of the most immediately striking elements of the film is that it’s surprisingly light on apocalypse: as with the likes of Shaun of the Dead, the protagonists are able to ignore the signs of the end times for over a week, going about their days as usual (save for the lack of power).
This becomes a recurrent theme throughout the film that separates it from its predecessors; most apocalypse narratives present people driven to their extremes, making decisions they never thought they’d have to make, practically becoming wild animals. In this film, the fall of society does nothing to break the neuroses of modern life, and Gabe and Etta bring all of them along on their journey. A number of scenes feel like only the apocalyptic premise distinguishes them from a straightforward sitcom: the constant repacking of the car before searching for food, the faux politeness of ‘I’d love to invite you to the bunker, but it’d be weird if we started bringing other people’, to friendly advice from neighbours about which empty houses would be good to loot. Even the origins of the apocalypse is kept very vague, giving many of the old white men in the film the chance to passively blame China or Russia (which sounds remarkably familiar).
Even when we begin to meet characters who’ve supposedly turned insane, it’s made quite clear they were pretty much the same before the apocalypse happened. One of the most brilliant scenes in the film twists the typical ‘we need to reproduce to survive’ trope into a hilarious jab at homophobia.
Scenes like this speak to the film’s brilliance; the apocalypse that Diani and Devine depict feels more like an exaggeration of the current state of the world, as opposed to a complete derailing of it. It adds a layer of biting satire to an already fantastic absurdist comedy; Diani and Devine Meet the Apocalypse is a brilliant example of the couple’s enormous talents.