In the 1985 movie, Quiet Earth, the protagonist finds himself apparently the only man on Earth. Later, he finds:

two others who, like him were at the moment of death. He further determines that this is all due to an American experiment. Here's where I get a little fuzzy...was it that an entirely different reality was created and these folks were shunted to it, or did truly everyone else get wiped out? The ending, where the protagonist is shunted to a THIRD existence, seems to bear out the alternate reality existence...does this mean that the events are experienced only by the characters in the movie, and everyone else is just fine back in reality prime? Or did everyone get wiped out?

Which one is it?

  • I don't see the answer to my question there. – Chris B. Behrens Dec 19 '11 at 22:31
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    ^^ It just says that it's left deliberately ambiguous. I don't have an opinion of my own, but - wikipedia is always right all the time, right? o.o – abcooper Dec 19 '11 at 22:33
  • Heh. I did think that the bit about purgatory was thought-provoking. – Chris B. Behrens Dec 19 '11 at 22:38
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    "To create is to suggest. To define is to destroy." J. Michael Straczynski quotes this often, and reminded us of it often on Usenet while he was making Babylon 5. Many times a writer or filmmaker wants something like that to be ambiguous to force viewers to think about it and arrive at their own conclusions. – Tango Dec 20 '11 at 1:42

At 1:21:01 in the film we see a mild version of "the effect" take place, roughly analogous to a pre-shock before an earthquake. All three of the survivors are thrust into alternate versions of Earth, two with drastically differing gravity and one where gravity seems to distort. None of them can see the others and until the effect passes none of them can interact with each other.

It's therefore likely that each time the effect takes place, an alternate Earth is created. Those who're unprotected (e.g. by being dead at the precise moment the original effect) remain in a stable dimension, presumably unaffected. Those who happen to be dead at the time of the effect are thrust into an increasingly unstable pocket dimension. If they somehow then regain consciousness they will find themselves alone on a "Quiet Earth"

From a "Voice of God" perspective, Writer and Director have both stated that the ending was intended to be ambiguous. In his commentary on the Umbrella Entertainment DVD release, writer/producer Sam Pillsbury states,

"...we all thought it was quite simple; I mean, our intention was just that, what happened was, he died at the moment of the effect for a second time and he's now found himself in another world, what the hell's he gonna do...", he then says, more or less jokingly, that director Geoff Murphy being 'a Catholic or lapsed Catholic, (it) may well have been something to do with purgatory, and y'know, you being trapped in cyclical and going back into having to relive your thing until you work out your karma, (something; possibly 'if I'm not') mixing my metaphors; anyway, enigmatic is good, I think, to a certain extent..."

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