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  • The minimalist approach to editing taken by the documentary crew brings the lives of the people living in Pripyat closer to home. Their emotions are more visible. They are allowed to talk and never interrupted. The black-and-white visuals somber the movie greatly and add an aura of danger. No music is added, no narration; it's just the subjects answering questions (and going on their own tangents) for the camera. All of these elements combine to produce a truly unique documentary that shows us what life is like in a town that no one wants to remember. It is deeply human, profoundly tragic, yet never melodramatized.

    The viewer feels the weight of a profound, almost existential sadness in the eyes, speech, and gait of the people who inhabit the "Contaminated Zone." In response to one of the interviewer's questions, a man who herds sheep in the Zone begins explaining the decontamination procedures he was taught by "engineers" in times gone by, but trails off to silently reveal his knowledge of their profound inadequacy. It becomes painfully obvious that he has come to terms with the fact that nothing he does will make any difference - and the fact that the people who were supposed to "help" him in the past in fact did nothing.

    What strikes me most is how afraid the people living around Chernobyl are, and how resolutely they try to mask that fear. The fear is not as much of the explosion that happened nearly two decades ago but of all the current unknowns: What is happening to my health? What is safe to do? What can I eat? What can I drink? Will I ever get out? Will I die? How much radiation is there? Is this/that dangerous? As is repeatedly emphasized by interviewees, "They (the authorities) don't tell us anything." These authorities have long stopped taking radiation measurements. Even the town doctor complains that she doesn't know anything about what's safe or what's not. One firmly-muscled old lady comes to her with a mysterious pain in her knee ("like someone's beating nails into it"). She has not slept the night before; the only treatment she could afford her ailing body was a vodka compress. The doctor listens to her frighteningly weak heart. In response to the doctor's concerned silence the grandmother says in a tremulous voice: "Oh well. You have to live and you have to work." Nor have the authorities done anything to repair the town's non-existent infrastructure, so communication with the outside world is next to impossible. In the absence of working telephones, another elderly lady laments, "You could die here waiting for an ambulance." With no police force, crime is unregulated, so theft and murder are common fears.

    The town is inhabited almost exclusively by elderly people too poor or too attached to leave. Those who refuse to leave make up one group; those who cannot make up the other. The latter are the ones who curse the government for keeping them in the dark about everything, isolating them, and "leaving (them) to (their) fate." The impossibility of acquiring a car has destroyed travel both to and from Pripyat, so leaving on one's own terms is not an option. Those who choose to live in the town speak with a barely-believable cheerfulness about how safe everything is.

    I cannot describe the pain I felt after watching even a small portion of Pripyat. In the final analysis, the film affords little hope since the secrecy and rampant incompetence of the Soviet administration remains under the autonomous Ukrainian government. In one moving section, a former lab technician prefaces her criticism the Soviet government for sending in young, uninformed soldiers to perform "clean-up" operations in the wake of the disaster (in effect, sending them to their deaths) with the phrase: "I don't care if they send me to prison." Even in 1999, people in the former Soviet Union must fear both their environment and their government.
  • "Pripyat" is a very carefully and slowly edited documentary about the 30 kilometer area around the desastrous nuclear plant near Russian town "Tschernobyl". "Pripyat", is also the name of the river next to this nuclear site. Once it meant life to the inhabitants of the area. Now all life around the reactor is forbidden by law. Still there are some humans living in the contaminated area: mostly old people, stubborn, too poor to live anywhere else. They live in the "Zone", as they call it. A documentary about a place, that has officially ceased to exist.
  • Frightening, haunting, mesmerizing, yet completely real. This is one of the greatest documentaries ever made, and its a true shame that it doesn't get the attention it deserves. Shot in Pripyat, the town of the Chernobyl incident, the filmmakers take us through a radioactive wastland examining tales of personal experience, and inside the power plant itself. A powerful piece of filmmaking. Make the effort to see it.
  • As a big fan of Geyerhalter's work, especially "our daily bread" and "elsewhere" I was a little bit disappointed after having watched "Pripyat". There are some very good scenes with the typical qualities of Geyrhalter. Very accurately set, photo-like pictures and - of course - people who are willing to openly show how they live, like the old couple living within the forbidden zone or the guy responsible for the still working block 3 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

    Unfortunately "Pripyat" is missing substance to fill the time. There are just to many scenes which show nothing new or which are just not important. For example we are following a former inhabitant of Pripyat on her old walk home. After 30 seconds we know that there are bushes and trees on the roads and paths. But we have to follow her for another five minutes, watching bushes and trees. Or there are some Scientists taking some water samples from a frozen lake. This takes another five minutes and could as well have happened anywhere else in the world.

    The low density of factual information in some scenes is even aggravated by the use of black and white material. Many things you are seeing are extremely difficult or not at all identifiable due to the lack of color. It's just black in black. I suppose many pictures just looked not disturbing enough and Geyrhalter tried to give them a strange mood by taking our the color.

    Without the superfluous scenes and with color "Pripyat" would be a great documentary about living and working in an area contaminated by radioactive radiation after the collapse of a nuclear plant. But in the and "Pripyat" is a quite fatiguing experience interrupted by some highlights.
  • I think that this documentary is a really good one. I liked the B&W treatment and the semi-long periods of quite to look at the awful sense of the ruined city.

    The documentary covers the stories of the people that choose to work and live in Pripyat. They take you through ruined buildings and even the power plant itself. The story tellers interview the guards that keep watch oner the "zone" as it is referred to, in an effort to keep people from removing items that were left behind in the evacuation.

    Overall it was very well done. I would certainly recommend this movie to people that care and or don't know about the sad story of Pripyat.