At last fall’s New York Film Festival, director Abel Ferrara, along with actress Shanyn Leigh, spoke about the inspiration behind their film 4:44 Last Day on Earth, which opens today, during a Q&A. Indeed, the exact inspiration is a bit of a mystery to Ferrara. “These films, where they come from, God only knows,” he admitted, although he added that “these ideas are out there. The zeitgeist is there.” When pressed to discuss the germ of his story, though, Ferrara since death is “the one fact that’s given to you in life” it’s surprising nobody actually talks about.
In that respect, 4:44 Last Day on Earth also makes an interesting companion piece to Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, which also played at the New York Film Festival. Ferrara’s film, however, mostly steers clear of grand apocalyptic visuals, opting for a more intimate perspective. The film is “not about the moment [the characters] realized the world is going to end,” Ferrara said. “Manhattan has changed from a war zone to a college campus.” I responded to the film’s restraint, preferring a subdued acceptance of death to heavy doom and gloom. That approach also dictated the level of science fiction to use. Ferrara wanted to “stay closer to The Twilight Zone than science,” and the consumer technology that dominates the film is the closest we get to science. The Skype calls featured in the film are actually real; the actors on the other side of those calls simply performed from their living rooms in front of their computer, with no director, costumes or makeup. These and other details related to the limited scope of the film where true choices, though, not restrictions due to budget. “There were no limitations on the budget,” Ferrara said. “I wouldn’t have shot it another way.”
[4:44 Last Day on Earth opens today.]