100,000 Years Out

As a member of the Screening Committee for SilverDocs 2010, I watched a lot of documentaries on DVD.  Now that the festival is almost here, I am excited to get to see them on the big screen and INTO ETERNITY is at the top of my list.  Watching it I thought of how the theater experience would really enhance the visuals and build upon the mood that director Michael Madsen has created.

Ostensibly a film about storing nuclear waste, the main subject is really time and human curiosity.  Because the waste repository in Finland is designed to last 100,000 years, it raises questions about our ability to comprehend such an incredibly long time.  For comparison, the pyramids, a project of comparable size, are only 4,500 years old.  How can we keep out potential “grave robbers” or even archaeologists?  What warning should be on the signs?  What language will humans speak in 100,000 years?

The architects and designers of the facility struggle to explain all of the safeguards that are being planned for the future.  Before too long, we start to see all of the assumptions and unknowns that weaken their plans.  Throughout the film, the visuals are stunning and create a spooky and entrancing mood.  Shots of the above-ground wildlife, and shots of the miners working to build the tunnel, along with footage of the current, temporary storage solution, all give an uneasy sense to this whole plan.  For curiosity is perhaps the strongest human trait, followed closely by the belief that we know what we are doing….

And yet, what else can we do?  This is the conundrum that the film explores.  We must find a safe place to put this, for our sakes, and we must find a way to keep it isolated from our descendents — generations so far removed that we cannot even imagine what they will be like.  Nor can we imagine how to keep them from looking when we know darn well a human will want to explore.   The director described his initial reaction this way:

“When, on my first research trip, I learned that this project’s preferred Long Term Safety strategy is to let the nuclear waste facility be forgotten by mankind, I got a first glimpse of the considerations, impossible hopes, cynicism and selective(!) predictions of the future that I had never encountered before.”

INTO ETERNITY (trailer) is screening on Wed., June 23, at 5:00pm and on Sat., June 26, at 5:30pm.  Buy your tickets now.

— Matthew Radcliff  is a documentary editor/producer and the organizer of the WIFV Documentary Roundtable.

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One response to “100,000 Years Out

  1. Listen to an audio interview with director Michael Madsen, courtesy of the NPR radio show, Science Friday:
    http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/201004234

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