The five-part drama about the catastrophe that happened more than 30 years ago turned out to be not just a tense, fascinating and heavy spectacle, but also food for quite topical reflections.
The American TV channel HBO in recent years has been doing something unimaginable with the TV-show business. They didn’t finish their “Game of Thrones”, which was called not only the main TV-show of the decade, but the historical drama “Chernobyl” created with Sky about the Chernobyl NPP in April 1986 was already released.
Chernobyl HBO in details
Initially, the show did not expect too much. The drama scenario was written by Craig Mazin, author of the sequels of «The Hangover», «Snow White & the Huntsman», and two films of the comedy franchise «Scary Movie», that is, purely entertaining pictures that lack any depth. However, the industry knows cases when not the most subtle comedy author suddenly takes on serious topics and succeed. Take the same author of the “Down Games” and “Authorities” of Adam Mackay, or Peter Farrelly with his “Green Book”.
But as the showrunner project became overgrown with team members, the degree of expectations began to rise. The director of the five-part television show was single-handedly made by Swede Johan Renk, who previously worked on some episodes of the TV series «Vikings» and «Breaking Bad», as well as filmed videos, including creating for the lover of complex and meaningful videos of David Bowie his farewell videos «Blackstar» and «Lazarus». The cast was led by colleagues in the drama Lars von Trier «Breaking the Waves» Stellan Skarsgård and Emily Watson (Boris Scherbina and Ulyana Homyuk), as well as the star of the costumed historical film Jarred Harris (Valery Legasov). As HBO showed new promotional materials for 2019, Chernobyl received more and more attention.
The premiere of the show took place at the Independent Film Festival Tribebek-2019, after which reviews began to appear in the press, unequivocally hinting that the audience was awaited by something completely extraordinary.
The main idea
In an interview that Craig Mazin gave to the Slash Film during the festival, he noted that the main purpose of his work was to show the value and importance of the truth. “We are all fighting the war against the truth now. And what we are accustomed regard as the specificity of the Soviets — honoring lies and using the press for propaganda purposes — now, as we understand, is no longer a unique feature of the Soviet state. This is already among us, here in the West. We watched it in the UK and are fighting it right now. I am concerned about the strange denial of expert opinions. When we are told that the worst word in politics is “elite”, I wonder, who else should we rely on, if not on the most qualified, intelligent and knowledgeable people?
We live in a strange world where scientists are scoffed at, the truth is constantly being questioned and we are suffering from it. One thing that Chernobyl clarifies, and this is the main thing – the truth does not bother anyone. I do not care that we ignore the experts. I do not care that we devalue the entire concept of expertise. Bad things will continue to happen whether we want it or not, ”Mazin told the newspaper’s journalist.
Actually, in order to make the story as truthful as possible, the creators of the series paid the lion’s share of attention and effort. Craig Mazin plunged into the subject with the thoroughness of a forensic expert. He shoveled everything – from declassified documents to books by Nobel laureate Svetlana Aleksiyevich, from newsreel personnel to personal memories of liquidators and immigrants from the exclusion zone. “Since our series aims to commemorate all the victims and those who died as a result of the Chernobyl disaster, we worked very hard to reproduce all the cultural details as accurately as possible,” said Mazin of the Ukrainian edition of BBC.
Where was Chernobyl HBO filmed
The meticulousness with which the team of foreigners recreated the life of the Soviet people of the mid-80s is the first thing that the audience noted immediately after the start of the series. American producers took a rather nontrivial step for such cases and entrusted the assembly of the visual component to people who perfectly remember that country and those times – including Ukrainian specialists. Nature was shot in Kiev, Kaunas and Vilnius as well as at the Chernobyl NPP “sister” – the Ignalina NPP in Lithuania. Household items and Soviet clothes were bought on second-hand and flea markets, Soviet cars were restored for filming. It was all the more annoying for Mazin and Renku because the plastic windows and other attributes of modernity got into the frame anyway. But the fact that in the fourth series in general terms with the National Library of Ukraine. Vernadsky (“playing” the scientific library of Moscow State University) lit a memorable sign to the liquidators of the Chernobyl NPP accident, in its own way even symbolically.
While some viewers were indignant that they hardly perceive Western actors in the images of Soviet politicians, scientists, engineers, firefighters, doctors, others made collages from photo characters and prototypes for comparison. The work with the actors’ appearance was no less impressive – boring Soviet men’s haircuts, Jesse Buckley’s untamed permanent waving (Lyudmila Ignatenko), huge horn-rimmed glasses, chevron mustache and in no way transformed everyone into a typical nondescript Soviet man.
However, there are inaccuracies in the TV-show. For example, a helicopter crash over the destroyed fourth power unit was transferred in time. In fact, the Mi-8 fell during an operation to fill the reactor with a decontamination solution already on October 2, 1986. The machine caught the propeller blades of the cable construction crane and fell a few meters from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the crew died. But in the mini-series scenario, there was no place for such details, so the helicopter was “dropped” on the destroyed reactor in the first days after the explosion. Also due to the failure of devices due to too high levels of radiation – another screen evidence that the main enemy of the heroes of the series was invisible and almost imperceptible radiation.
However, there are inaccuracies in the TV-show. For example, in 1986, Gorbachev’s “dry law” was already fully operational, but the heroes in the frame very often drink vodka. On the one hand, it seems like the notorious spreading cranberries. And on the other, another symbol of the situation of the liquidators, confused in the face of an unprecedented catastrophe, who, in the absence of iodine preparations and effective personal protective equipment, escaped radiation by any, often absurd, folk methods. Including, drinking the vodka.
Nevertheless, the final, summing up the entire history of the series “Chernobyl”, despite the fact that, unlike the previous ones, it is almost entirely fictionalized by the scriptwriter, it is dedicated to the values of truth. And the deadly consequences of lying. Court screen, which is not actually present not Legasov not Shcherbina, more like a theatrical performance with props and memorized beforehand biting monologues.. According to Mazin, he looked at the court materials and found them too boring, and therefore he took such liberty after a series of meticulous reconstructions.
“What is really interesting is the ideology of the Soviet Union, the idea of the infallibility of the system, the fear that people will notice some flaws or mistakes. Everything must be perfect and you have to pretend that this is so. And the system that attached too much importance to ideology, then the idea of an ideal nation, or an ideal worldview, led to the fact that the facts were simply shallowed aside, “- this is how described his impressions of the series finale of Stellan Skarsgård. “This is a political thriller. This is a horror film. This is a scientific study. This is a judicial drama. This is pretty much all together, and that’s because it works in real life,” and Craig Mazin described his entire work.
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