It would be a gross understatement to describe The Bomb as merely a documentary about, well, the bomb. This MacArthur Foundation-backed project takes the audience through a multimedia experience that shocks, devastates and, most importantly, opens one’s eyes.
The most extraordinary aspect of this experimental project is the feature’s collaboration with the electronic music band, The Acid. In a move à la the silent movie era, the musicians play live orchestrations for the corresponding images of the film. The result is a provocative combination of visuals and sounds that push forward relentlessly in a manner evocative of the relentless push towards nuclear armament over the past several decades.
Directors Smriti Keshari, Kevin Ford, and Eric Schlosser masterfully assemble a montage of archival footage that is both stunning and grotesque. While there is a general chronological order of events, the film is clever to assemble images and text in a way that conveys information but also has emotional style. By making use of repetition and juxtaposition, this innovative documentary does more with less. It creates a feeling rather than explaining bluntly and, thus, the audience gets to discover the information and the truth for themselves.
The musical accompaniment is perfectly paired to accentuate the feelings generated by The Bomb; however, silence in music often speaks the loudest. Such is the case when the quietest point in the experience corresponds with a collection of Japanese artwork depicting the post-atom bomb devastation. This pause gives the viewer reprieve to simply sit, witness, and think about the true cost of nuclear war. In this and many other moments of the film it’s fair to say that the creative team succeeds in forming moments that resonate with modern audiences on an emotional level.
The Bomb concludes with a small glowing sculpture that slowly illuminates the band and brings up the house lights in tandem with the glowing images of the sun behind them. This final statement brings forth conflicting emotions, which can best be summarised by the human conflict between life and death. Nuclear weapons are inherently vehicles of death and destruction formulated by human beings. However, it is those same people who use nuclear weapons as a means to protect their lives and the lives of their loved ones: thus, there is the striving for the preservation of life. The glowing light is a parting reminder to choose life, to strive for reform in our current situation, and to dispel death.
At a time when the Doomsday clock is the closest it’s been to midnight in the past 30-plus years, this live documentary multimedia experience could not be coming at a more pertinent time and it most certainly hits the mark.
The Bomb does not have a UK release date yet.
For further information about the 67th Berlin Film Festival visit here.