The leftovers is worth watching

Two percent of the world's population suddenly disappeared without a trace, seemingly swallowed by the earth. The leftovers tells the story of the bereaved as a grandiose, gloomy painting of morals, as an existentialist observation of society full of eccentricity.

At the center of the mystery called The Leftovers are Police Chief Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) and his family members. The divine event, through which two percent of the world's population simply disappeared on October 14th, actually left the Garveys undecimated, but nevertheless goal deep wounds and rifts into their unity.

We know who they were

Kevin's wife Laurie (Amy Brenneman) has turned into a sectarian group in the three years since the disaster Guilty Remnant ("Owed remainder") attached. Kevin's son Tom (Chris Zylka) followed self-proclaimed faith healer Wayne (Paterson Joseph) to the Nevada desert after witnessing a double suicide on his university campus. The youngest daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley) is the only one left with Kevin - at least physically. Mentally, the disoriented teenager has long since disengaged himself from everyday family life.

Early in the pilot it becomes clear that The Leftovers is not interested in exploring the central mystery. Series creator Damon Lindelof (Lost) and book author Tom Perrotta never tire of emphasizing that the focus will not be on this supernatural event, but on the reactions of those affected. Right at the beginning, a gloomy meditation on the aftermath emerges.

The reactions to the supposedly divine intervention couldn't be more different. The Guilty Remnant probably assumes that there can be no more hope. The members consequently reduce their own existence to the bare minimum, wear white clothing, feed on a colorless porridge, have stopped speaking. They seem to indulge in only one pleasure - smoking. Their name reveals a religious ideology: they consider themselves to be leftover sinners. Whether this also means, conversely, that they see the raptured as God's brought home children remains unclear in the pilot.

Laurie (Amy Brenneman) before the mantra of "Guilty Remnant". © HBO

In several scraps of various news programs, the general, worldwide ignorance becomes apparent. At the beginning a radio voice reads out the number of victims of individual nations, an expert tries to put the extent of the catastrophe into perspective by weighing the number of those who disappeared with the number of victims from past pandemics. A committee of inquiry made up of scientists and theologians set up by the American Congress comes to no conclusion after three years of research.

They just go primal

But because human nature is not designed to simply accept inexplicable phenomena, religious, ideological, and agnostic theories are booming. Because there is no comprehensible explanation, in the eyes of many retarded there can only be one explanation. For them the event is the definitive proof of the existence of God and the truthfulness of an event foretold in the Bible, which in English The Rapture means, in German but with rapture only finds a linguistically poor equivalent.

The term from Christian eschatology (the doctrine of the last things) appears in the scriptures only in connection with right believers. According to this, the followers of the Christian faith would be brought to heaven by the returned Jesus Christ before the end of the world. After that, the world continued to exist for several centuries before it was called a battle Armageddon would come.

Precisely because this theological construct assumes that only the right are brought to heaven by God, the pastor Matt Jamison (Christopher Eccleston) fights against the further spread of this theory in The Leftovers. At a festival parade on the occasion of the third anniversary of the Departure he distributes leaflets about the past of the disappeared. He is trying to prove that the event could not have been a rapture.

(Dead) dogs are part of the mystery of "The Leftovers". © HBO

At the festive address given by Mayor Lucy Warburton (Amanda Warren), members of the Guilty Remnant on. They hold up a poster that says "Stop wasting your breath" and are soon beaten up by horrified mourners. Nevertheless, they are successful in the end with another recruitment attempt - which consists of pursuing a potential new member everywhere -: The unstable Meg Abbott (Liv Tyler) wants to break away from her glamorous life and seeks existential support from the sect.

Can you help me?

With me, the request of the series creators Lindelof and Perrotta already met with great benevolence after the pilot episode. The authors manage to create a gloomy world of broken, disoriented seekers that immediately cast a spell on me. The wealth of interesting characters is overwhelming. Garvey himself may be delusional and his father went mad as a result. His daughter exists in an emotionally cold, dull, numb bladder. Her teenage friends try to drown the knowledge of their own trivial existence in naked hedonism.

The itinerant preacher Wayne apparently has psychological manipulation techniques, holds a whole harem of young girls of Asian descent and gushes to Tom: "Grace period's over." On the day exactly after three years, another catastrophe will occur. An urban legend holds up well, according to which dogs banded together in large packs to attack other animals and even humans (which Kevin can finally testify in one of his alleged delusions).

With a few exceptions, these fascinating characters are embodied by outstanding actors. In the beginning, Amy Brenneman stands out as Laurie Garvey, because her acting has to be completely silent. There's a heartbreaking scene between her and Kevin, who drunk and begs her to come home. Brenneman only conveys the emotions of her character through her facial expressions, a great achievement. It is well known of Liv Tyler that she does not belong to the ranks of character actors, the same applies to Chris Zylka, who looks a bit too "CW-ig" for the role. Nevertheless, their game in the pilot episode is solid and is always enriched by the performances of their colleagues.

Young people flee from their dreary reality in extravagant hedonism. © HBO

The technical implementation under the direction of Peter Berg (who has a small cameo in the episode) increases over time. At the beginning, the images appear - by HBO standards - plentifully smooth and clean. The steadicam stays close to the protagonists. If you know Berg's other directorial work (Friday Night Lights, "Lone Survivor"), you will quickly find his typical characteristics in The Leftovers. His pictures sometimes have an expressionistic touch, here too he reveals his emotional, demanding directorial style. At the end, the composition of the picture is transformed into an opulent work of art, in which the dark course of the episode finds its climax.

Am I awake?

The visual implementation is supported by a grandiose musical background. Both the sound design of the German-British composer Max Richter ("Shutter Island", "Waltz With Bashir") as well as his piano theme and the use of various pop music (for example by James Blake) underline the narrative urgency, the visual immediacy and the corrosive forlornness of the protagonists.

The pilot episode exudes its bleak view of human existence and community from every pore. A larger portion of humor would have done her well, apart from a small objection, there is only numbness and emotional devastation far and wide. From various sources it can be heard that Tom Perrotta's original book is quite lighter. The omnipresent dreariness should therefore prevent the series from becoming a great public success right from the start - just like the fact that the central mystery is not of central interest to the series makers.

All these elements and properties make The Leftovers a dark existentialist work of art, a philosophical-religious meditation on the inexplicable - unique and absolutely worth seeing.

The article was published 7 years ago on Monday, June 30, 2014 by Axel Schmitt under the URL https://www.serienjunkies.de/the-leftovers/1x01-pilot.html#review.

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