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IMDB Description: “What would happen to our society if the system collapsed tomorrow?”
Why I Took it off the List: I’ve had this eerily timely French series recommended to me by a couple of people recently, but put off watching it because it sounded quite bleak, and felt like the last thing I needed was more end-of-the-world bleakness amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
However as I had a few days off work and was feeling reasonably more chilled out and able to cope with an anxiety-inducing apocalyptic series, I decided to give it a go. Also, it’s only 8 short episodes long so not too much of a commitment!
Not many, the only thing I really knew about The Collapse is that it was a relatively realistic look at what would happen if society, well…collapsed.
As France has turned out a number of well-crafted socially-minded TV series in the last few years (my absolute favorite being the amazing supernatural drama The Returned (2012-2015), my curiosity overtook my reservations and so I decided to take it off the list.
Spoilers? Nope! I’ll discuss the general format and highlights of L’Effondrement in a vague and spoiler-free way!
Review of The Collapse
Although produced and initially released in 2019, this French series feels absurdly timely for our uncertain times, as The Collapse takes a comprehensive and meticulous look at the disintegration of society following a game-changing collapse of the system.
Each episode cleverly centers on one location a different number of days before and after the (vaguely defined) tipping point for humanity, allowing for a refreshing range of different points of view to be explored among a population scrambling for survival after everything goes to shit.
Although the world wasn’t exactly lacking for TV shows depicting the breakdown of society before the pandemic, The Collapse avoids covering territory chartered by the likes of The Walking Dead too closely by constantly switching its point of view and presenting an ever more harrowing vision of this future each time.
Stands Out for Virtuoso Camerawork
The most impressive thing achieved by The Collapse is its sense of realism: by following a central character almost in real-time across the span of an episode, it convincingly conveys the dread and mounting panic of its protagonists as their situation gets even direr.
This is helped that each episode appears to be shot in one impressively mounted and choreographed long take, adding to the claustrophobia and sense of ‘what would you do?’ dilemmas.
This approach works particularly well in the two stand-out installments for me, one set in a gas station and the other on a desert island (pictured above). The latter episode in particular is an intense sequence that never lets up on the tension throughout and leaves you kind of breathless by its end.
The only hangup I had with the series is the decision to tell a disappointing and familiar flashback story in the last episode, a last-minute moral message that feels like it should have been sprinkled throughout the other episodes in a less obvious way and instead stuck to its format of telling future-set tales.
Final Score: 8/10
Worth Checking Out?
Yes, if you can stomach the fact that this particularly realistic apocalypse hits pretty close to home at the moment, The Collapse is a fascinatingly down-to-earth look at societal breakdown with some incredibly tense sequences, even though its ultimate message is a familiar one.
Stay tuned for my next review, a lighter and more romantic offering in time for Valentine’s Day!