As the credits rolled and lights slowly rose after the screening of Michael Madsen’s documentary Into Eternity, the few hundred people at the screening, myself included, sat in stunned silence. I’m sure many were sharing the exact same thought I had: what are we doing about our nuclear waste?
Madsen’s film takes a look at Onkalo, the nuclear waste disposal facility currently under construction deep in the bedrock of Finland. With gorgeous and haunting visuals accompanied by an equally haunting soundtrack and more than enough silence to allow the contemplation of humanity, it manages to ask questions not only of the future of civilization but also urges us consider our history.
Onkalo is a massive undertaking. One hundred years to build, the facility will have to last 100,000 years before the material to be housed there is innocuous to living creatures. How does one plan for 100,000 years? The numbers are so immense that it’s easy to forget that we’re only at year 2,000. It’s unimaginable but for the people designing and building Onkalo, they have to think this far in advance. How do we communicate the dangers hidden within the rock? How do we remember to forget?
A poem and warning of danger, Into Eternity does what every environmental documentary wants to do and often fails: consider the future of our world. In its short running time, Madsen’s film builds a doomsday future on the shoulders of one of the world’s sources of energy and more poignantly than any other documentary, asks the question: is it worth it? Is powering our gadgets really worth the possibility of ending the world?
A horror film, an environmental documentary, and a testament that we are capable of doing good by the world and not simply harm, Into Eternity is the most effective warning of environmental collapse I have yet to see and perhaps the most beautiful.
See VIFF screening schedule for show times.