The first thing you should know—or probably already know—about Hell is that the title actually means ‘bright’ in German. But it could just mean either way, really, because the film is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the sun is shining too brightly that it leaves nothing but barren wasteland and people trying their best to survive. We are first shown a French couple, their car wrecked and they themselves severely hurt, trying to get away. They are scared, and we can see that it is because of some people who seem to be running towards them. The scene changes and we are introduced to Marie, who is traveling with her boyfriend Phillip and her younger sister Leonie.
With barely enough gas, the group of three is traveling to the mountains, their last hope for water and survival. Along the way, they met Tom, a hungry drifter staying in a gas station. Although unsure, Phillip asks Tom to join them as he thinks having another man will be helpful. The dubious troop continues their journey until they come across a group of people trying to hijack their car, with Leonie inside it.
Originality might not be Hell’s strongest point, as there are already a bunch of other similar-themed movies out there, but it can certainly stand proudly amongst them. It is a simple, well-written, well-made film that despite its short running time—87 minutes—manages to let its story develop. What you see and feel in the first half turns into something different in the second half and along the way the movie gives you enough suspense to keep you interested. Not only that, it also has characters that we root for, even though they are actually never given much background. They don’t share many meaningful dialogues, yet they don’t feel shallow or clichéd and as the audience, we look forward to their endings.
The bleak and dusty look plays well for the movie, and the blinding sunlight is definitely one of the movie’s main attractions. I like how they smartly utilize it not only for the background, but also for the movie’s climax. But in the end, what drives the movie is not the disaster itself, but rather what the disaster compels humans to do. It’s definitely a violent movie, with enough killing and, yes, biting to make you cringe. And one of the weapons used in the film is a cattle gun—an item made infamous by Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh.
When the end credits start showing, there’s one name that rings a bell—Roland Emmerich. The man behind some of Hollywood’s biggest disaster films such as The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 apparently produced this one. And Hell is so small compared to those movies, made with so little money, so private and simple and that’s exactly why it’s also better than them.
Hell was screened at Europe on Screen 2012, Jakarta.