The 1986 nuclear disaster is something which captivates many minds but is rarely talked about, far less shown on television. HBO once again brought brilliance to the screen in the form of a five part series, Chernobyl. The show captures the horrific night of the nuclear reactor explosion in a Ukrainian power plant. The events of the night and aftermath are shown in the best way possible, representing both the complete tragedy of the victims and wilful ignorance of the government.
The cinematography of the series perfectly captures the dark nature of the horror story through grainy monochromatic shots and close ups. The darkest moment of the show is in the control room minutes before the explosion, where the focus is on the pressure gauges. This effectively shows just how small the mistake was which lead to the death, sickness and rehoming of so many.
The setting of the thick forests surrounding Pripyat create an effective backdrop. In real life this caused commotion and confusion at the time and allowed the government to hide the true extent of the accident from the people. The show highlights this by filming in the sister power plant Ignalina in Lithuania. This was the closest they could get to perfecting the authenticity of the sites, as Chernobyl and Pripyat are still extremely radioactive and not safe for extended human exposure.
An incredibly talented cast portray the characters, including well known actors like Jared Harris and Stellan Skarsgård. The final scene of the series is especially powerful as it details that the main characters are all based on true victims of the tragedy and explaining their real lives now.
The absolutely heartbreaking story of first responding firefighter Vasily Ignatenko’s wife, Lyudmilla, is all the more striking with the understanding of her real existence. Lyudmilla lost her husband, her home, her family and her first born child because of the complete neglect of the government, inciting true anger in the viewer.
The most brutal and heartbreaking scene of the series is Lyudmilla’s final meeting with her husband before his death. The biological understanding of the effects of radiation is perfectly portrayed through the outstanding works of the make-up and special effects department. His skin begins to melt off and his organs cease to function making it even more difficult to watch. Lydumilla refuses to give up on her husband’s legacy and hard work fighting for his justice long after his death, like so many others, making her a true heroine of the series.
Overall the show is a cinematic masterpiece which cannot be faulted. The show cuts no corners when creating authenticity from costume to setting to make up and special effects. The show is completely successful in shining a light on the victims misfortune and government complacency. Writer Craig Mazin states in an interview that he “never wanted anyone to feel comfortable” through the viewing of the show. This passion reflects in the quality of Chernobyl and its success in showing the true atrocity of the event.
Image Credit: IAEA Imagebank via Flickr