Saturday, November 17, 2012

I Will Only Fear the Atomic Holocaust If It Is Not Telecast by Danny Doom: Part One

When I was young my parents and I were travelling in North Dakota near the air force base at Minot. My father was slowing down as each B-52 bomber roared overhead on takeoff. Craning his head for a view of the gigantic war machine as it flew off towards its failsafe point, or armageddon. As we drove my mother was more interested in what was in the farmer's fields. Missile silos, they are pretty much spaced as evenly as houses there. Her demeanour was that of a pacifist inspecting a division of soldiers, flaming swords in hand, singing Christian old time revival songs: "Bringing in the sheaves! Bringing in the sheaves! We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves!" 

 Later on in life I learned the Hopi have a lovely name for nuclear weapons, the Gourd of Ashes. Poignant and poetic, describing so much of their ability in so little words. Much later in life I was writing this article, this very sentence actually I asked my Dad about that day near Minot and asked him what he would have done if as we drove past those white silos they opened and launched their beautiful arcing missiles until all we could hear was the roar of the rockets as they carried the death of millions encased within them. My Dad was laughing as he answered, perhaps because he was seriously answering. "I would have pulled over, got out of the van and made love to your mother." I was suitably horrified but realized, that considering we'd probably die minutes later, it would seem infinitely preferable to living at that point. My father, earning the distinction as one of the only beings which have made me wish for nuclear annihilation.

A part of me is absolutely fascinated by it, after all. Not about my parents having sex, but nuclear war. For a civilization based on the supposed pillars of reason and rationality, the act of killing one's own species is an act one has to be completely rational, or completely mad to contemplate. So if your like me and enjoy putting on the atomic thinking cap, come enjoy the four best nuclear war films. After all if you can't drop the bomb, you might as well watch others do it.

When the United States Air Force decides to give you a vision of nuclear war from the 1950's as a nuclear war lover, you quickly press play and ignore all other needs. From the cool and collected narrator we learn that no one wins in a nuclear war, but that success is possible. What this film lacks in production values and plotline, it makes up for in general eerie quality of honesty and optimism that these men take with them into the holocaust. There's a faith in the technology and systems of destruction which shines through, no one panics, no one questions. A study in horror which is horrifying because there seems to be an absence of the reaction to the horrific. It would be easy to make fun of this film, but to do so misses the point of the ideas it presents, and the ideals it serves. A wiser soul then me once wrote "A war story is never about war" which means its about the people telling it, what they have to say and what they see. Keep that in mind when you see this movie. There's where the real horror is.

Note the relaxed way the casualties from civilian targets are announced, how the cost in lives is eclipsed by what really matters, the loss of aircraft and pilots. We may not understand what happens after the war begins, but we know these are the kind of men who will lead us into that war. This is the essential quality of humans which allows us to be the fountain of horrors, our ability to become that person who will calmly destroy a city, disconnected from the effect, doing our duty and following orders.

If The Power Of Decision had an ugly twin that it never wanted you to see, this movie is it. This film provides a different set of facts and figures to be calculated, and aims at the gut with the whole effort of its blow. If you had to give one movie to a person to have them understand the full flowering of horror that nuclear war represents for a society and its structures of order you`d have to seriously consider The War Game as the ultimate movie. Throughout the movie, when facing the sheer weight of facts and figures it provides, is an understated point, given in a typically British way that any nuclear exchange would irreparably devastate the lives of millions and end the world as we once knew it forever. It makes this point without seeking to preach it, or hand it to you on a platter. It merely opens the door to the abyss and through the assistance of dramatized moments, lets your mind explore the truth of what these weapons can do. 

However, that being said, you will at times in this movie begin to, depending on your temperment, laugh uncontrollably or gasp in abject horror as the dramatic scenes are often cut by some of the most poignant counterpoint commentary courtesy of a black screen with white text that will ever be paired with such images. Remember, according to the Vatican nuclear bombs which are clean and of a good family the faithful must learn to live with, but you don`t need to love the bomb. Sounds like the most sensible advice I`ve heard, what if you really love the bomb though? Does the Church approve of a man or woman marrying a nuclear bomb? Ask your pastor these important questions.

-Danny Doom

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