THE PENULTIMATE (Den Næstsidste): Future Perfect

The tense of time that we think is complete, is the time of the symbolized. Learning the causality of a fact is based on this absolute method of knowing. As it will come unaware of the most immediate state of the present time, we arrive at its future perfect tense. In this respect, the possibility of establishing a link between the symbolic and the real death seems unlikely. The Penultimate (Den Næstsidste), first feature film by Danish director Jonas Kærup Hjort, created a story that made the spectator feel the existence of death, but where it’s strictly forbidden to think about. Death is just a symbol of time. Most interestingly, we cannot grasp how time flows in this film, which draws our attention even more. That is why death stands as far away as it is near. This literally gives signs of a narrative of a future perfect. Beforehand the symbolization of the symptoms referring to the unknown; thereafter its coming to fierce confrontation with the Real; draws the limitations of life very clearly. Although the main character of the film, “The Water Inspector” (Joen Højerslev) is faced with Reality, we can say that reality is unable to take care of itself without him. So much so that this Reality, whose existence is unwanted, does not release him until it is integrated with his body. When time comes to release him, the future perfect is already complete.

Tired of Being Timeless

The building, which is the main subject of the film is giant, transparent and has many doors, it is also the common point of violent encounters with Reality. Behind each door, dwell the integrated voids of enormous nothingness. It is not possible to touch any of them. The impersonal images continue their order in the building without interruption. This points to the total devotion of the human life inside the building to its own image in The Penultimate. An image that you think exists outside, unless you have the possibility to live, then you won’t make any effort to get out of the building and thus you won’t have an image to chase. The image you think of the outside, turns this building into a living structure in clashes with the inside.

The Water Inspector‘s encounter with the Reality in the film is always tested by his loyalty. This creates an expectation for the facilitation of life inside the building. However, the time spent in this building is not forgotten, as the Reality always goes with the act of remembering. And it never allows the patience given to him to end. It obviously reverses the expected loyalty. Everyone who goes into this building or lives there has a unique subject. From the moment The Water Inspector enters this building, he realizes that they’re quickly trying to take his subject away from him. But his daunting courage and efforts to get out of the building constitute a blinding destructive force for his main subject. This power ends when he sees another exit door after the exit door that he just encountered. The subject outside the building is now dead. It’s time to get used to what is inside the building.

You Won’t Feel Things Disappear Even If You Never Know It’s There

Do you think suffering is a necessary part of the human condition?” when a boy asks this question to the main character, we can actually sense how the general mood of the film will take shape. The whole of the questions that this mute boy asks about life and the existence of human beings warns us about the fact that we need to suffer more in this building. For those inside the building, pain is not exactly this kind of pain in the generic sense, but the Reality that new members experience is apparently pain. While the individuals in this building, which resembles a kind of a new State structure, are normally expected to be perfect, but it should be underlined that as a human being, everyone has their own deficiencies. So the purpose of this building is never to reach the Perfect. This creates an air of irony in the movie.

If we need to say what kind of question the film answers, it is undoubtedly a fact that it indicates that we are not alone under any circumstances. Even at that moment when we think we’ve gotten rid of everything, we may come across many people who are in the same situation as ourselves, or who have already tried what we have tried. Although tried and tested before, those who are new to the building will always continue to try the same things because they all have the right to experience them individually. Just like death: it is the oldest thing in the entire Universe, but when it hits us individually, it will be the newest thing ever, something that we’ve never experienced before. This is a way of existence that always creates a loop within itself. Maybe it is not possible to get rid of it when you enter this Building, but there are many buildings outside anyway.

The Symbolic Ban of the Subject

This building, where lots of objects dominate, but not subjects, actually shows that all objects create a common subject. We can understand this most easily in the scene where the lines that show that the word Pineapple are pronounced the same in many languages. This makes everyone inside the building a pineapple. Everyone is a subject in this sense, but as a carrier of their own objects. This object issue appears mostly in the character naming part of the movie. None of the characters in the movie have a unique name, only certain naming for their duties. For example, from the very beginning, we were in a position to believe that the character of The Caretaker (Ina-Miriam Rosenbaum) was very important. This way of being named adds a more mysterious air to the content of the movie. And it prevents the object from being revealed to its subject.

Taking the Nothing Out of Nothing

The atmosphere created by the symbolic fiction in The Penultimate also supports the experience of its own reality. Believing in what we see or hear throughout the film always hides the Truth from us. Although the function of the symbolic order seems to be perfect, it should not be forgotten that it has a fetishist structure. This order, where reconciliation brings radical happiness, will grab you by your hand and take you out of the ruined place. When you leave here, the fog you left behind will also be gone. You will not even find your own shadow in the violent peace that is scattered around. The Penultimate, which was first shown at the 24th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in 2020 and took place at the 45th Hong Kong International Film Festival this year, seems to attract the attention of many viewers to come, with its deep dark world. It drew our attention for sure, and it’s an understatement, let’s say we were mesmerized by it in the best possible way. Highly recommended.

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