Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Movies of My Nuclear Adolescence

When I was at the library last week, picking up Ursula K. Le Guin's last book, I also got a DVD of Testament, which had some DVD extras, like "Testament at 20."  The DVD is due soon, so last night I watched the 20 year retrospective.

How interesting to hear the views of the cast (the children so grown up!), the director, the musician who wrote the score, and assorted other people.  I knew it was a small budget film, and I am always interested in the stories of artists making a way out of no way.

After I watched it, I thought, let me just watch the explosion scene--and of course, I wound up watching the whole thing, as I continued my big sorting project.  How strange to watch that devastating nuclear war movie, the one I could argue has the most wrenching impact because it doesn't overwhelm you with special effects, as I sorted through old paperwork, especially letters of recommendation.

Several people who wrote those letters are dead, and one of them has ALS, with a grim prognosis.  Some of those letters are written in support of career trajectories we will not be taking. 

I also sorted through some books.  I'm still at the point where the decisions are easy, where I'm wondering why I kept the books at all.

I thought about watching the movie when it was shown on American Playhouse in the fall of 1984.  A few of us gathered around the big screen (which in those days meant a special projector) TV in the student canteen.  We were expecting something like The Day After.  Testament is not that movie.

It's also interesting to watch this movie in this current age of war drums beating, of a psychotic North Korean leader and an ignorant U.S. president.  It's clear to me that Trump never saw the movies of my nuclear adolescence.  Let him sit through Threads and then talk to me of first strikes and pre-emptive attacks.

This morning I did some Internet wandering and finally, after all these years of periodic searching, I found the short story written by Carol Amen which was the foundation for the movie.  I also found this interview with the director--full of interesting insight!

I also found this review, which ends this way:  "Testament was about facing the unthinkable in 1983 and being called to do something about it. Although replaced by other serious maladies, today we can count our lucky stars that those nightmares of full-scale nuclear war have largely gone away."

Like the zombies beloved by so many as an apocalyptic instrument, those nightmares have returned.  Sigh.

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