30 March 2006 | nickcomfort
Megatons not mega-teens
The long-awaited film adaptation of Gudrun Pausewang's 1988 bestseller, lives up to readers and critics expectations alike. As in the novel, the teenaged protagonists take centre-stage in the cautionary antinuclear tale. The focus remains so fixedly on our young heroine and her troubled beau, that, were it not for the occasional shot of the brooding dark cloud moving at breakneck pace across the idyllic German countryside, we would likely forget the nuclear catastrophe, and relegate it to the position of initiator of events, rather than overriding drama.
The film's sentimentality is given carte blanche, as teenage angst is substituted and validated with abstract and scientifically incorrect fears and assertions about the safety of atomic energy. Being put on par with national if not global energy policy, the horror-drama of the characters situations forces our sympathy, and by the end of the film, we find our selves wanting to scream out: "It would have all worked out, were it not for those dratted power plants!" Not to deny that nuclear catastrophes have an individual human cost, but they also have a mass human cost, a catastrophe can only be shown to be such, when the universalising magnitude of its scale is shown. "Die Wolke", gives us a gaggle of teenagers with whom we identify no more than any other group of acne-poppers whose fragile lives are thrown out of balance on Sunday afternoon television.
Viewers cold, utilitarian, opinions are countered with a brand of Dickensian humanism with an agenda. The film is prefaced in many cinemas with a reductionist piece of sensationalism, namely advertising by Greenpeace. Greenpeace are an action group, yes, but Greenpeace energy is a privately owned energy provider. This introduction leaves a bitter taste in the viewers mouth that does not abate, but tends to get surge up again, whenever the films characters utter one of their newly wise energy policy statements "Nuclear energy, we should have got rid of it years ago!" "And switched to Greenpeace," was all that was ringing in this critics ears.
In Regensburg' s Ostentor Cinema, a Q and A session (heavily focusing on the A) was held after the film. Invited were a political figure, a doctor specialising in catastrophe medicine, the organiser of the Evangelisches Bildungswerk and a judge turned politico. While they all agreed the film lacked scientific consultation, they all proceeded to use it as a platform to float their differing opinions. The panicked audience rattled off questions as to what they were to do in case of nuclear catastrophe, "The opposite of what they do in the film!" was the popular response. While increased cancer rates were shown in the following years, only two people died from the direct explosion and radiation in Tschernobyl. The majority of the deaths among those 30- 40,000 expected to die following a nuclear catastrophe result from unrest in the fleeing population.
If panic is the overriding sentiment following a change in nuclear policy, such as might be produced by a major meltdown in the reactor of power plant, then it is no great leap to assume that panic is also the overriding sentiment in the depiction of nuclear energy in film.