The salient question is what we're doing with our nuclear waste. Existing storage systems require a power supply that won't last nearly long enough. The world above ground is unstable: there have been two world wars in the last century, so a permanent solution needs to be found. Conditions in the rock won't change, so the answer is a massive underground cave in Finland that's the size of a city. Called Onkalo, which means "hiding place", it won't be completed until the 22nd century and it needs to last for 100,000 years.
Slow almost to the point of paralysis, the film covers the reason why nuclear waste exists and why it has to be disposed properly. If it spills into nature, it would create areas that were uninhabitable ("Did that happen?" Madsen asks).
The biggest fear for Onkalo is human intrusion. Would future generations interpret it as a burial ground or maybe a treasure? We can't predict the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand.
So how do we communicate to civilisations we can't imagine. Language and even alphabets are useless, but what about images like Munch's The Scream? Others argue that Onkalo should just be forgotten, because leaving a marker risks inciting curiosity. As this is so far beyond our imagination, it can't help but spark our ingenuity.
Once we adjust to the film's stilted, dreamy approach, it's a thoroughly unnerving experience. Shot and edited like a science-fiction movie, the film has a muted style that extends to the expert interviewees, glassy-eyed camera work and stark editing. It may be pretentious, but it's never academic. There's really only one point to make, but it's a mind-boggling one. Is it possible to isolate a place from humans (or any others) for this long? Think about it: the Egyptian pyramids were sealed just a few thousand years ago, never to be opened again. We know how that worked. And yet we still can't read some of their messages.
Run time: 75 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 6th January 2010
Box Office USA: $55.2k
Budget: $900 thousand
Distributed by: International Film Circuit
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
IMDB: 7.5 / 10
Director: Michael Madsen
Producer: Lise Lense-Moller
Screenwriter: Michael Madsen, Jesper Bergmann
Also starring: Michael Madsen
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