THE END: Acclaimed Documentarian Explores New Territory Filming ‘Golden Age’ Musical

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Joshua Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer Takes New Focus Filming Musical About the ‘Last Human Family.’

At the helm of The End as director and producer, filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer envisions the ‘Golden Age’ musical currently in pre-production.

Joshua Oppenheimer has already distinguished himself as an academic, an author, and a director, first of short films and later two universally acclaimed feature documentaries to his credit, The Act of Killing (2012) and The Look of Silence (2014). Now, seven years later, Oppenheimer has evidently headed in a new direction, and an intriguing one, a ‘Golden Age musical’ about ‘the last human family,’ entitled The End.

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At present there is nothing beyond this brief sentence. But evidently it piqued enough interest (supposedly) to bring some remarkable actors on board. The first two, Stephen Graham and George MacKay, have impressive resumes in their own right.

Tilda Swinton is the latest to join in. She is no stranger to dystopian or fantasy film genres. The range, fire, and finesse she brought to her work in Orlando, Constantine, and Snowpiercer attests to that. So, whatever potential the project shows must seem mighty enticing to the gifted Swinton and her talented colleagues.

One can’t help but wonder about Oppenheimer’s motives in venturing into the musical genre, especially one so steeped in tradition as to be labeled, albeit loosely, the ‘Golden Age.’ But it’s reasonable to assume that the gifted director wants to find new vistas. We can only speculate on the nature of his new vision, and at the end of the day it remains a peculiar yet fascinating one.

The single sentence describing the project may be ambiguous, but it also has some tantalizing clues. Cursory research on the internet reveals that while the ‘Golden Age’ musical has no precise definition, all the contributors earmark with a certain span of years, anywhere from 1940 to 1965. There are some obscure titles in the lists provided, and those well known appear consistently, such as The Wizard of Oz, Singing in the Rain, An American in Paris, Oklahoma, and so forth, enough to form a reasonable benchmark.

How Oppenheimer could integrate the ‘last human family’ into this sub-genre is even more curious, juxtaposing something ominous striking at an institution so deeply revered, even primal. Not that there isn’t a precedent in musical theatre dealing with tragic portents, of course, considering the popularity of Les Miserables and the Phantom of the Opera. But according to the consensus of the on-line pundits, these are examples of more recent theatre conventions, separate and distinct from those of the ‘Golden Age,’ in which happy endings prevail regardless of the misfortunes preceding them.

In the long run, it depends on how Oppenheimer defines the meaning and implications of ‘family’ in the context of The End, whatever that ‘end’ may entail–destruction or transformation.

One more notable aspect. No writer is mentioned in connection with the project. Could it mean that, at present, Oppenheimer works from a concept only? Scouting for one, once he establishes his vision? Judging from the sparse information available, it seems likely he intends to break ground with some sort of new narrative. And in the hands of a director of this caliber working with the remarkable cast thus far teamed up, The End should prove very promising indeed.

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