14 June 2019

High praise for the "Chernobyl" HBO miniseries

I've seen several positive reviews, this one from The Atlantic:
...Ulana Khomyuk (played by Emily Watson) has a conversation with a Soviet apparatchik about the “incident” at Chernobyl that brings the analogy fully home. “I’ve been assured there’s no problem,” the bureaucrat says. “I’m telling you that there is,” Khomyuk replies. “I prefer my opinion to yours,” he says. “I’m a nuclear physicist,” she counters, adding, “Before you were deputy secretary, you worked in a shoe factory.”

The action veers between ludicrous, Death of Stalin–style farce (the radiation level is reported as 3.6 roentgens per second, since that’s as high as the counters go) and grindingly tense body horror (babies burned bright red, incessant retching, open sores). Johan Renck, who directed all five episodes, instills a sense of visceral fear that culminates in one striking scene where nearby townsfolk bask joyfully with their children under falling flakes of deadly nuclear ash...

Chernobyl is a thorough historical analysis, a gruesome disaster epic replete with oozing blisters and the ominous rattle of Geiger counters, and a mostly riveting drama. But it’s also a warning—one that straddles the line between prescience and portentousness. Whether you apply its message to climate change, the “alternative facts” administration of the current moment, or anti-vaccine screeds on Facebook, Mazin’s moral stands: The truth will eventually come out. The question he poses, however self-consciously, is whether hundreds of thousands of lives must always be sacrificed to misinformation along the way.
The series starts on HBO tonight.

Reposted from May to add this video -

 - and a comment that I thought the series was superbly done.


  1. Masha Gessen has also liked "Chernobyl", but in her opinion, not everything about it is deserving of the highest praise.

    1. That criticism is just vile know-it-all speculation, befitting her position as go-to-Russia-basher (I'm guessing!?) in attempt to distance herself from the sudden popularity and sympathy of the subject matter.

      Her borrowed explanation (of systematic negligence), that somehow the system is responsible, is philosophical at best. But that is the story of every disaster, with plenty of people abiding and others fighting negligence.

      Her claim that "confrontation was unthinkable" is ludicrous and impossible to prove. Also prosecutors wield more power than judges in any jurisprudence.

      The "truth" is that reactors can and do blow up, the world learned as much the following days, claiming that nobody got to the truth is not seeing the forest for the trees.

      When your torrid rhetoric runs away with you, this type of diatribe is the result. Personally I often start with the rhetoric, and then cool down once I thought of some good arguments and levelheadedness prevails.

      Her characterizations sound informed but very theoretical and conceptional, while her arguments only amount to some sweeping generalizations and speculation of what might have been.

  2. The eerie score was done by Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, created mostly from sounds of an actual nuclear power plant:

  3. there is a telekon youtube playlist of archival footage from chornobyl made during
    and after the meltdown (russian with english subtitles):

    The documentary series "Chernobyl. 1986.04.26 P.S." - 27 videos



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