When we first meet Glen (Steven Curry) and Randa (Shelley Plimpton) they are unselfconsciously naked, wandering through a lush green forest. Soon we realise that the time is neither Genesis nor the present, but sometime in the future, about a generation after a nuclear holocaust has wiped out modern civilisation.
The young couple speak everyday American and Glen can even read in halting, largely uncomprehending fashion.
They apparently live in an encampment beside the ruins of a roadside Howard Johnson’s with a number of stunned-looking older people whom we do not get to meet. Scavenging seems to occupy the elders completely.
One day a magician (Garry Goodrow) drives up in a crazy ramshackle vehicle and puts on a show demonstrating the wonders of the civilisation lost. The record player may be scratchy, the blender filthy but everything works, thanks to the magician’s homemade generator.
Glen is dazzled by this latter-day Pied Piper and when he discovers a Wonder Woman comic book he determines to seek out The City – Metropolis – unaware that such places no longer could possibly exist.
It is incredibly poignant to watch Glen, followed by a reluctant Randa (“We should have stayed in that cave by the river”) innocently seek out all that has culminated in destruction.
Coming upon a ravaged trailer home, Glen sticks an unlit pipe in his mouth and sits before a ruined TV set, understanding neither what the pipe nor the television are but that that’s what humans are supposed to do. “We’re not animals, we’re people,” he informs Randa. “We have to start being civilised”.
The only other key character is Sidney Miller, a serene old man of the sea (Winston Chambliss).
In this powerfully evocative but exceedingly demanding film, Jim McBride and his collaborators Lorenzo Mans and Rudolph Wurlitzer create a contemporary allegory in which they convincingly demonstrate that the more man strives for civilisation the farther he gets from nature, his true salvation.
The story is told in a series of vignettes, staged with documentary-like realism, punctuated by slow fade-ins and fade-outs.
For the duration of its short 94-minutes, Glen and Randa is a real workout but the absolute concentration it demands is rewarded with the experiencing of a unique and tragic vision of the immutability of human nature.
Thanks to Kevin Thomas.