All is Lost, the environment, and hope…

Posted on Mar 17, 2014

All is Lost, the environment, and hope…

Firbolg Publishing’s latest release in the Enter at Your Own Risk series is a collection of environmental horror stories. Enter at Your Own Risk: The End is the Beginning is filled with ecological nightmares of every sort. There are disasters and death, chaos and catastrophe. The stories serve as a collective warning. But what is a warning if not also a kind of hope? Watch Out!—these stories say; there’s danger ahead. But there’s also still time to change course; to take another path; to divert the danger. To slay our own dragons. The darkness is all around us, within us—is us. But there’s also the glimmer of light… of life. Perhaps not life as we now know it, but life nonetheless. And where there is life, there is hope. This is the same hope that director J.C. Chandor and Robert Redford bring to the film All is Lost.

When I first read the positive reviews for All is Lost, I’ll admit I was hesitant. There’s almost no dialogue. It’s about boats. I had my doubts. Yet by the time the credits rolled, I knew I had just watched a masterpiece. Yes, it’s about a guy on a boat lost at sea. But just as James Joyce’s Ulysses is technically about a guy walking around Dublin, All is Lost has far greater depth than just the surface narrative.

The story explores humanity’s fragile relationship to itself and the world in which we live. A nameless man, adrift at sea, sets his only hope for survival on reaching a stretch of shipping lanes. When he finally does, however, a massive cargo ship stacked with tractor-trailer shipping containers comes out of the distance. His flares and hopes soar skyward, but to no avail. These floating bastions of faceless consumerism chug by with no notice of the single individual on the verge of death on the open sea. The irony of this horrific abandonment is set in the first scene—the damage that sinks Redford’s boat came when one of these very same containers fell into the ocean and collided with his vessel. Much like the corporations they serve, the same metal beasts that shipwrecked him in the first place fail to even recognize the damage they’ve done.

Once the now near-death man drifts out of the shipping lanes, he sees a light in the distance, but his resolve is gone. He no longer has the strength of will to watch another floating city of products march by. But instead, as he’s sinking into the depths, the lights of a boat skim the water’s surface. He makes one last effort, and a hand reaches out. One individual to another; one life connected to the next.

If the monstrous monoliths cruising the sea like faceless metal gods are an unforgettable image of modern Gothic horror, the film’s final shot is that glimmer of light through the darkness. Throughout the film, I went back and forth as to whether Redford’s character would live or die. With the popularity of nihilism and defeat, I was sure he was going to perish. Director J.C. Chandor did not take us down those fatalistic roads so common today. The ending of the film felt neither maudlin nor predictable. It felt real; hopeful—the human hand, the ray of light at the end of the long, seemingly hopeless night. It felt like life.

Epic themes, sheer determination, and hope for the future.

This is a film everyone must see.