The prison guard, her father, and her husband watched a movie called Into Eternity about the Onkalo nuclear waste storage facility in Finland. The movie explores various subjects ranging from how long it will take to build and then bury (at least another hundred years or so. They think to fully seal it around 2120. I will have been long dead by then. And so will you), how to warn future generations (if they are even around to warn, I assume you are not surprised by my lack of optimism regarding this), and the film, through this exploration, calls into question the use of nuclear energy.
Before this film, I did not have a clear opinion on this subject. After watching the film, I regret to say my ignorance has been replaced by ambivalence - regret because ignorance is so much easier a state of mind to tolerate. Regret because this is yet another weight added to my thoughts. Regret because I have always hoped that through intelligent exploration of an idea, I could come to clear conclusions. This has been a disappointment to me more times than I can even remember - that failure of intellect to make sense of the world haunts me. Wakes me in the night from any small peace I may come to in dreams. Keeps my brow forever furrowed.
Because if we cannot think our way to an answer, what hope is there for us?
Onkalo means hiding place. Or cave. Cavity.
It is being built deep into the earth. Watching the film, I noted the earth movers and the humans operating them, tucked away into the bedrock, illuminated by fluorescent lights. For some reason I was surprised by that, the fluorescent lighting. I was struck by it.
Maybe because it is so alien to the dark.
One of the most interesting and frightening questions that the director (Michael Madsen) asks is how can we warn those who will come after us? What will keep them from thinking they have discovered our secrets? Our magic? How can we know how they will interpret this hidden place, this cavity carved from the earth?
The movie addresses an anonymous person-of-the-future. This person is asked and asked again how she will perceive Onkalo. She is treated tenderly throughout the film. One is made fully aware of Madsen's grief, of his own torment.
Because humans believe it will take over 100,000 years for nuclear waste to break down. And an elegant point made in the movie is that nothing human-made has yet survived that long. So we wager on a hiding place, disregarding our and the earth's tumultuous nature - disregarding the tumultuous nature of existence, and then we say what? That everything will work itself out? That our plans are infallible, although they have never been infallible before? Do we tell ourselves that for television, light at night, movie screens, hot water - that for all this and everything else that which we risk is worth it?
And what do we risk, reader?
What do we risk? What is at stake? What is that gamble - what object (d'art or otherwise) do we place upon the table?
It is our survival. It is all that is verdant and urgent and impossible - all that is chaotic and beautiful (an overused and insufficient word if ever I used one) and, in the end, important. Although perhaps I err when I say we. It is you, not me, who makes these decisions.
It is you who have said this is what we want. It is you who have taken the entire world by its throat and strung it up, and for what prize? A string of pretty lights, kept bright late into the night. The comfort of a computer screen, connecting us until that day when perhaps the water pools fail, or there is another natural disaster and we are plunged, and I mean the verb intensely, plunged into a human-made hell. Miracle of science. New world order. This is how technology reaches into our veins and tugs us, perhaps at times reluctant, into Huxley's Brave New World and then beyond it.
Perhaps that is too cliche. Perhaps I have veered too far from my movie review. I was going to tell you how many "thumbs up" I give this film. I meant to tell you to pop some popcorn. I meant to remind you to melt the butter. Instead I've wound my way around to this sad, stupid, done done done cliche.
Do you still want to know how many thumbs up I give it? Even after all this?
I do not have any thumbs.