As Spanish/Ethiopian/Finnish post apocalyptic films go, Crumbs is… an unusual one. Never before has the end of the world seemed so… bizarre.
This is a far cry from the scorched Earth hi-jinks that one usually expects from a post apocalyptic film. While the film opens on a desert wasteland unlike any ever seen before on screen, one that almost seems to writhe and undulate before our very eyes, the rest of the story takes place in verdant green forests, lush mountain roads, and desolate but functional open air spaces.
With just a few simple adjustments in perspective, the world of Crumbs is instantly established as something truly alien.
The movie reclaims and repurposes the world we know, turning it into something strange and wonderful.
Part of that strange and wonderful something?
Yup. Simple, ordinary, everyday stuff.
In the world of Crumbs, the detritus of our pop culture, divorced of its original context, take on new and unfamiliar significances.
A mass produced Ninja Turtle action figure becomes the totem of a warrior race. A plastic sword becomes a holy weapon. Michael Jordan becomes an idol of worship. A sorely underrated Michael Jackson album is currency. A bowling alley can become the site of a minor miracle.
Even the Nazi symbol becomes distinct from its horrific history as it finds itself on the uniform of an intimidating looking but mostly hapless scavenger.
The junk of our current world becomes the treasure of the next.
It is in this odd, fairy tale-like world that we meet Candy (Daniel Tadesse) and Sayat (Selam Tesfayie), a pair of lovers in this very strange land. After the spaceship that has hovered in the sky above appears to revive itself after an eternity of dormancy, Candy goes on a perilous quest to find Santa Claus, who he believes will grant their wish of getting them on the spaceship so they can finally return to their home planet.
All of this probably sounds absurd. Which it is, of course. But light fingered absurdity is just one of the many virtues of Crumbs.
Expanded from a short film by Miguel Llanso (though only just; the film still clocks in at a little over an hour), the mix of humor and imagination in Crumbs casts a hypnotic spell. Unlike most stories of this nature, the journey is the whole point of thing. What happens when Candy meets Santa Claus is of far less importance to the filmmakers (and to the audience) than just spending time in this unique alternate reality.
The quest Candy undertakes isn’t exactly fraught with danger. Any real moments of tension are quickly defused, and the viewer worries less for Candy’s safety and more that he’ll actually be able to complete his mission. Because at a certain point, all we want is for Candy to get back to his lady.
What starts out as a post apocalyptic satire becomes almost a romantic fable.
It helps that Daniel Tadesse is instantly and utterly loveable as Candy.
With his clipped posture, high-and-sweetened voice and gentle, wary eyes, Tadesse is no one’s idea of a hero. Hardly a man of action, or even, seemingly, one to overcome great odds. But he invests Candy with a sort of fearful determination; he’s scared, but will do anything to ensure the future of him, his wife, and his yet-to-be born son, who will one day be King of The Universe. Or something like that.
And with that in mind, it actually means something when he finally confronts Santa Claus (Tsegaye Abegaz, the weirdest one of all, and that’s really saying something). Half-insane from a lack of good little boys and girls to give gifts to, and still clinging to a pointless bureaucratic system for granting wishes, the encounter doesn’t go as well as one might hope. But after an entire film of Candy flinching and cowering at every potential threat, it’s shocking and electrifying to see him stand up for himself.
As to where his newfound courage gets him… well, it’s a fairy tale, isn’t it? Things will be fine.
The pieces don’t all fit together, but that’s okay: Crumbs is too singular weird and wonderful an accomplishment not to forgive it a few rough edges. Miguel Llanso has created an evocative world and peopled it with memorable, loveable characters. And science fiction fans with a taste for the offbeat owe it to themselves to give it a look.