Toronto: The buzz film 'Collapse' showcases a gripping pundit of economic doom

collapse-ruppert_lI said in my first post from Toronto that you could feel the anxiety of the economic crisis in any number of the films here. Yet even as I wrote that, I could never have guessed I’d end up seeing a movie that would  tap into those anxieties with the power and terror of Collapse. It’s one of the few true buzz films of the festival (by the time I got to it, I’d heard a dozen people talking it up), yet the movie, which is 82 minutes long, consists of nothing more than an on-camera interview with Michael Ruppert, a former Los Angeles police officer who became a rogue investigative reporter and author.

tiff_icon2A bluntly unassuming and rather plain-looking man in his late fifties, Ruppert sits in what looks like a brick bunker and talks about where he thinks the United States is now headed. It is not a pretty picture, but it’s not a naive one, either. Ruppert has more than a perception — he has a welter of facts, a restless and skeptical intelligence, a grasp of history that is professorial in the best sense, and an ability to slice and dice the platitudes of mainstream media. He’s like Noam Chomsky as a gripping pundit of doom. The drama of the movie, and it’s intense, is that even if you want to argue with him (and you will, since he’s predicting very bad things), you can’t dismiss what he’s saying.

He starts out with a trump card of credibility. In 2006, Ruppert predicted the economic crisis — I mean, he really saw it coming. We’re shown clips of him from that year, and there’s nothing vague or abstract about his statements. He glimpsed the whole house of cards in prophetic detail: the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the inevitable breakdown of a system built, like a gold-leaf castle in the air, on leverage. His astonishingly acute foresight seizes your attention, and so you’d better believe that you’re sitting up and listening as he starts to talk about “peak oil,” the term that’s used to describe the fact that the majority of oil reserves on the planet have, in all likelihood, already been depleted, and that the remaining supply will now perpetually be in decline. (He cites reports that the Saudis have resorted to off-shore drilling — infinitely more costly than on-shore — as evidence that they’ve begun to see the bottom of their wells.)

Okay, so what does this mean? Ruppert explains how oil is entrenched in everything we have — how it doesn’t just run our automobiles but is the basis of our plastics, our food supply, our vast energy-devouring culture. Without it, he says, society will begin to stop functioning as it now does — that is, it will decay. You may want to fight him on that point, but he’s got arguments for everything — his decimation of what he calls the myth of alternative energy is particularly provocative, and ominous — and what his statements add up to is this: The way of life that America, and much of the rest of the world, has known is now ending. The “economic crisis” isn’t just a bad patch; it’s the finally visible — and inevitable — symptom of a much greater underlying instability. And what’s coming? A society, Ruppert says, that is going to have to fundamentally re-imagine how it lives if it intends to survive. He invokes the Titanic, his prognostication teetering between dire warning and doom.

Do I believe all of this? Will you? Collapse was directed by Chris Smith, the maverick documentarian (American Movie, The Yes Men) and fiction filmmaker (The Pool), who interviewed Ruppert for 14 hours over the course of two days. Smith, working in the talking-head-as-totem spirit of Errol Morris, has done a marvelous job of editing Ruppert’s words into a cohesive and dramatic cautionary monologue, and also of standing in for the audience by asking tough and challenging questions, evincing a healthy skepticism of his own. If you wanted to pigeonhole Michael Ruppert, reducing him to a genre of contemporary human begin, then it’s obvious what you’d call him. You’d say that he’s a conspiracy theorist who has thrived within the information-age quasi-underworld of the Internet. Yet the power of Collapse is that Ruppert, with his dazzling articulation and disarmingly low-key, just-the-facts-ma’am encylopedic-associational style, never sounds like a crackpot. You may want to dispute him, but more than that you’ll want to hear him, because what he says — right or wrong, prophecy or paranoia — takes up residence in your mind.

Comments (44 total) Add your comment
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  • Heidi

    I saw it and seriously went home and couldn’t sleep all night. It makes a case for the whole ‘end of the world’ kind of scenario that we could be moving towards – if not in our generation, perhaps our children’s or grandchildren’s. Sadly, people won’t radically change their lives unless everyone else is doing it – and until there is no apparent alternative. By then it could be too late. That said, I’m not going to live in fear. Stress could kill me long before any of this could become true.

    • sasa

      Hi! One question. I am from EU and am asking you where did you watch it? Any help, idea, suggestion? Thx a lot in advance!

  • Paul

    Unfortunately it is happening as we speak. Oil has peaked in 2008.

  • olive & orange

    Wow, I can’t waint for this filme to come to Europe! i hope it will become a blockbuster at the common cinemas all over the planet…

    Finally people will wake up!

  • Ed-M

    Heidi is right, hardly anybody will change until all will have to change. By then it will be too late.

    And, may olive and orange turn out to be right;… although I’m not holding my breath for that to happen in this mess called the US. Y’see, the common cinemas here are owned and run by huge corporations — like most everything else.

  • brisa

    There will not be enough energy to power economic growth necessary for repayment of the massive governmental debts needed to prop up the failed perpetual growth paradigm and fractioanal reserve banking system.

    This financial crisis is just getting underway….

  • bob

    Much background on this film can be found on the totally free websites: Dieoff.org, TheOilDrum.com, EnergyBulletin.net, and LifeAfterTheOilCrash.net. The Assoc. for the Study of Peak Oil [ASPO] and the Post Carbon Institute are just two of the major umbrella orgs.

    Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

  • bob

    I also suggest you google Jay Hanson Thermo/Gene Collision as it is only 8 pages long. Please Google Richard Duncan Olduvai Gorge Re-Equalizing Society. Please Google Jeffrey Brown Export Land Model. There are also lots and lots of books on these ‘Peak Everything’ topics.

  • Andy

    This film blew my friends away. They damn near couldn’t function afterwards. Now if that’s not good filmmaking what is?

  • Tom D.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing this. I’ll probably drag my family with me to see it.. Mom, Dad, sister, in-laws, friends..

  • bob

    Google Greer + Catabolic Collapse. Google Dmitry Orlov. Google Matthew R. Simmons, author of ‘Twilight in the Desert’. Google Billionaire Richard Rainwater in the Rainwater Prophecy article in Fortune Magazine circa 2005. Google the SAIC Hirsch & Bezdek Report. Read the blog called TheAutomaticEarth for economic news.

    A good, but short intro-primer can be found on the Homepage of LifeAfterTheOilCrash.net, but there are now lots & lots of websites and blogs covering Peak Oil and Peak Everything.

    Please be Smarter than Yeast and DO NOT IGNORE the REALITY of what lies DIRECTLY AHEAD.

  • PonyBoy

    There’s a great book by James Howard Kunstler that examines the issues brought-up by Mr Ruppert – “The Long Emergency.” It tells of how we got to where we are, what role alternative fuels play in the future, and how things could most likely play-out in the coming decades.

    What’s particularly scary about this film and this book is that the issue we’re facing isn’t a pie-in-the-sky concept. It’s not the same as being hit by a meteor out of nowhere; it’s a geological certainty that we’ll be facing very, very soon.

    Even in the very unlikely event where mankind somehow pulls a rabbit out of a hat and business-as-usual manages to continue with minimal hiccups, no one ever says, “Damn. I shouldn’t have lived so responsibly.” On the other hand, if these civilizational changes do indeed come, you owe it to yourself and to your family to get educated and prepared.

  • eric

    Excellent advice Bob. I’ve already read most of those sites and books. Time is running out. It’s time to wake up. God help us.

  • bob

    Google the ‘Transition Town Movement’ that is preparing for the coming postPeak era. Are you growing all your food that your family requires per year?

    Most Americans take their food supply for granted yet it takes 5-10 ounces of FF-energy for every ounce you eat!

    Will your kids still want a stuffed toy huggy-animal if that animal is extinct? Scientists are talking about humans causing the next great Extinction on our ‘Little Blue Marble’.

    Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

    Think of it this way: Maine lobsters & Alaskan king crabs DO NOT MIGRATE across the North American Continent with their uplifted claws full of bananas, lemons, liquor, and chocolate into your favorite seafood restaurant!

    It takes an incredible amount of energy to grow/harvest/process food, then get it into your mouth.

    Do you know that nearly all vanilla bean plants have to be hand-pollinated because the mellipona beechei bees are so very,very few? Google Colony Collapse Disorder + honey bees, then picture your family having to hand pollinate many crops with a Q-tip for countless hours just to get a glass of Orange Juice, or some jam for your toast.

  • bob

    TheOilDrum.com [TOD]has had 45 million page views and 19.8 million unique visits since its inception.

    EnergyBulletin.net [EB] and LifeAfterTheOilCrash.net [LATOC] may have even more members, plus there are many, many other websites and blogs that are linked-in too.

    It is also incredible how many books on Peak Oil, Peak Everything, Overshoot & Collapse, Climate Change and related topics that are now available.

    The point is that Mike Ruppert is NOT some crazy person with crazy ideas, but VERY SANE and backed up by the best biologists, petro-geologists, ecologic-economists, history researchers, scientists, concerned businessmen, and many others. So for any newbies first encountering Mike Ruppert and the article commenters==> you have a LOT of WORK to do if you hope to catch up.

    I strongly advise you to get going.

    Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

  • bob

    Let’s remember that all energies come from the Elements in the Periodic Table. When you sit at that table: Mother Nature [Laws of Physics & Chemistry] doesn’t care who you are, or what you believe, only what you do with those Elements.

    Will you burn-up the energy released by those Elements with non-necessary shopping and pointless easy-motoring creating lots of waste?

    What kind of world do You want to leave for your children as we go postPeak? Think very carefully, because the Grim Reaper is getting anxious to make you and your children pay very heavily for the wrong actions.

    Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

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