The Russian Chernobyl movie is already available on Netflix in some countries, the English version will be available to UK users in 21 July.
Chernobyl: Abyss is the first major Russian feature film about the aftermath of the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, and while the movie is a nice story to watch, it needs to be remembered that it is not a documentary and is largely a work of fiction.
More drama than HBO
The main character was like a bad rip-off of any Hollywood hero from the 80’s with no substance and many of the scenes are also ripped off from Hollywood movies like Pearl Harbour.
A formulaic Chernobyl-themed popcorn movie with heavy doses of nationalism, sentimentality and historical inaccuracy that doesn’t try or want to answer the big questions and instead focuses on a sentimental romance and tedious heroic dramatizations.
This two-hour movie mainly focuses around the main character, who manages to survive a car crash, fight the fire following the explosion, drive an ambulance, and dive under the reactor to open water valves. What a true Soviet hero.
Nikolai Chebushev was head of the fire brigade at the Kurchatov nuclear plant and was tasked with putting out fires at its devastated sister plant in Chornobyl, 1,000 kilometres away, in April 1986.
In particular, he said, a scene where the trio of heroes dive into radioactive water and then hold their breath and swim under the reactor never happened. Instead, the men waded through water to get to the valves that had to be opened, he said.
He called the production a “fantasy” that downplayed the misconduct and lies that Soviet authorities told in an effort to conceal the extent of the disaster.
Alexander Rodnyansky produced the movie about the disaster. He said his film focuses on the ordinary people who were asked to do extraordinary things, rather than the ‘ineffective’ Soviet system.
“We definitely know what happened in 1986 — every single Soviet citizen knew that the reason for the disaster was the Soviet system. It was ineffective,” Rodnyansky told CBC News in a recent interview at the Oktyabr Cinema in Moscow, on the night his film premiered.
“Our movie works very well along with the HBO series, because these are the different aspects of what happened,” he said. “Our story tells about how the normal people — the hostages of this [Soviet] machine — find themselves in a position to stop the disaster.”
But several of the clean-up workers said they remain haunted by the experience and that most Russians don’t appreciate how the coverup doomed so many of the liquidators to early deaths.
In that sense, says Nikolai Tarakanov, the movie was a missed opportunity.
“This movie doesn’t teach us anything,” said Tarakanov, a former Soviet general who was among the highest-ranking people on the ground at Chornobyl in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.
In the HBO production, his character — portrayed by British actor Ralph Ineson — is shown ordering workers into extremely contaminated parts of the destroyed power plant.
“I wake up at night, and I can’t forget Chornobyl,” Tarakanov said in an emotional interview at his Moscow apartment.
“I had to tell them: ‘There is a decree of the Ministry of Defence which orders the removal of radioactive fuel. I will give you a moment to think about it.'”
Tarakanov, 87, came close to tears as he remembered the soldiers who are no longer alive.
“No soldier refused during the 20 days of work — they removed 10 tonnes of radioactive fuel. Ten tonnes!”
More than two decades after the explosion, he said, Russian President Vladimir Putin cut the pensions of liquidators, a move he said has left him “ashamed.”
The movie will be available in the UK from 21 July 2021 and is already available in some other countries here.
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