the bomb ****/*****
Directed by: Kevin Ford & Smriti Keshari & Eric Schlosser.
There are times in which, by pure happenstance, the timing of something works out just about perfectly – and releasing the montage documentary the bomb on Netflix for everyone to see on August 1 – and having the leaders of North Korea and Donald Trump trade threats of nuclear annulation the following week is one of them. The film was originally made has essentially a 360 degree art installation, in which viewers were to be surrounded by screens, showing the same images, and listening to the hypnotic score by The Acid, and seeing the history of nuclear weapons play out in front of their eyes, with no words, until close to the end. The makers of the film said one of the reasons why they made it is because no one talks about nuclear weapons anymore – even if there are more than enough to kill us all many times over. Well, they’re talking now – and a film like the bomb, even in the much diminished form of watching it on Netflix instead of how it was made to be watched is still hypnotic and frightening.
The film runs just under an hour, and is basically a long montage of images about the how the bomb was created, tested, and used – the images start out almost triumphant, and the music echoes this – as of course, this is a magnificent scientific achievement, even if it’s a horrifying one as well. The makers get there as well, showing us clips of old educational films about the bomb, and how to protect your family and what to do in the event of a nuclear strike – which, of course, was pretty much all lies. We get images of the tests as they happen, as they blow apart houses and other structures. We get images of the two times these bombs were actually used in war – in Hiroshima and Nagasaki – and the tremendous cost of those. Through it all, we hear no words, just the music by The Acid, which finds the right notes as it moves along.
The film, which seems to be one of mounting hopelessness and despair, doesn’t actually end as bleak as you may it expect it will. The only time the filmmakers allow words to come into the film, they pick a few snippets of speeches by two US Presidents – Reagan and Obama – both of whom hoping for a nuclear weapon free future. It was a TV film – The Day After – which helped Reagan reach this conclusion, so who the hell knows if the bomb could help anyone else do the same – but it cannot hurt.
The film is a stunning achievement in editing and music – a ride that is both terrifying, and, oddly enjoyable. There isn’t a ton to say about the film, and I really do wish I had been able to experience like those at film festivals in 2016 were able to. Yet, even playing on Netflix, the film is stunning and unforgettable.