Into Eternity: A Film for the Future

Year: 2010
Production Co: Atmo Media Network
Director: Michael Madsen
Writer: Michael Madsen/Jesper Bergmann

This documentary showcases a massive project called Onkalo to dispose of nuclear waste in Finland, a complex dug deep underground where spent nuclear fuel rods will be installed for the next century and then sealed forever.

But what it's actually about is the conundrum we have today to make sure future generations don't find and open it. Though your immediate assumption is that record keeping from now until the far future will be assured and people in a thousand or ten thousand years time will just be able to look up the mind meld equivalent of Wikipedia to know about Onkalo's existence, the film makes a fair point – war, politics, culture or any number of societal trials and tribulations could wipe out any knowledge of its existence.

What then? Leave an obelisk or marker warning people away in case all written records are lost? Remove any record of the location now, hoping that – all that time in the future – nobody will have the technology or reason to reveal it?

It's a pretty fascinating question, and director Michael Madsen (not that one) collects an eclectic group of talking heads from across the decision making firmament of the European political and corporate bodies involved in advancing and dealing with nuclear power and its effects and byproducts.

Unfortunately, most of the way through I kept thinking it would have made a more interesting book than a movie. Aside from a few sequences from inside very high tech modern nuclear waste disposal facilities it's not very cinematic, only ever showing you a bunch of people in offices answering interview questions or trucks driving through snowy landscapes or deep into the massive tunnel (because it's still under construction).

It's exacerbated by the fact that Madsen thinks he's Terrence Malick, wanting the whole thing to be a lyrical, dreamlike dance through the issues instead of just a documentary that gives you the facts and opinions of people who know what they're talking about.

At its most extreme, he includes several shots of himself lighting a match in a dark room and talking softly and poetically direct to the camera asking the questions he wants the film to pose, but doing so like he's trying to be an enigmatic old storyteller talking about philosophy. Honestly, they're all a bit much.

You'll come away smarter and it will certainly have given you something to think about, but it's not very successful as a piece of cinema.

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