Lyrical and offbeat, cowriter-director Jim McBride’s postapocalyptic saga Glen and Randa offers a humanistic spin on a genre that’s normally marked by nihilism and violence. Rather than imaginging a near-future Earth where survivors of a cataclysm battle each other for dwindling resources, McBride posits a primitive environment where the eradication of knowledge is the biggest danger to the human race. The lead characters, hippie-ish teenagers Glen and Randa, are introduced nude and in the wilderness, hitting the Adam and Eve allegory hard, so the idea is that they’ve grown up as primitives without schools and other social structures to shape their understandings. Glen has gleaned his sense of the world from comic books that he (barely) reads, so he dreams of finding the gleaming city of Metropolis, where everyone can fly. (Glen’s so beguiled by power fantasies, in fact, that he shouts “Shazam!” whenever lightning strikes.)
After a long and largely wordless sequence of Glen and Randa cavorting in the woods, the movie shifts to civilization, of a sort, when the young lovers join an enclave of raggedy survivors who gather around a campfire and eat scraps. Next, an old man known only as “The Magician” shows up, putting on a show featuring a random assortment of gadgets from the technology era—a blender, an record player, and even a fire-retardant suit. The Magician is a mile-a-minute blabbermouth, but his connection to the old world fascinates Glen, who becomes the Magician’s de facto assistant. (“You’re too good a man for slavery, Prince Valiant,” the Magician says to Glen in a mishmash of highfalutin phraseology and literary references. “I give you a quest.”) After Glen steals maps from the Magician, he and Randa set out for their next adventure, even though Randa has become pregnant. Finally, the duo falls into the orbit of Sidney Miller (Woody Chambliss), a sweet old recluse living in woods by an ocean shore.
One could argue that nothing much happens in Glen and Randa, simply because McBride eschews the usual postapocalyptic tropes (messanic characters, radiation, roving bands of savages, etc.). Yet the vibe of the picture is strangely persuasive, and the specific choices that McBride makes are interesting—for instance, the Magician plays a warped 45 of the Rolling Stones’ “Time Is on My Side,” with the irony of that song in a postapocalyptic context emerging gradually. Ultimately, Glen and Randa is a strange little movie filled with connection and despair in equal measure. FYI, although the film carried an “X” rating during its original release, the only edgy material is nudity and some discreet sexuality.
Glen and Randa: GROOVY