The experimental film by Mark Cousins about the nuclear bomb is assembled as a collage from a vast amount of archive footage. The movie premiered on the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombings and combines mushroom clouds, citizens’ protests against nuclear weapons, utilisation of x-rays, animation, and propaganda material of the Cold War with material from catastrophes such as Chernobyl and Fukushima. It’s not the voice of the narrator that is leading the stream of images, but the music composed for the film by the Scottish rock band Mogwai that is conjuring almost macabrely beautiful art out of the gloomy imagery.
Despite seeing glimpses of several flags of different nations from the US to China and the United Kingdom, and also a child asking about atom bombing from Truman, Cousins doesn’t single out any specific culpables for power plant accidents, the victims of mass weapons or the balance of terror. The viewer may draw their own conclusions while the hypnotic stream of images ends with plates informing how after the year 1945, over 2000 nuclear warheads have been detonated, and how in the year 2015, 15,700 of them existed, and in the following year, billions of dollars would be spent on them.
Atomic, Living in Dread and Promise can be seen as a kindred work to the chilling The Atomic Cafe from 1982, even though Cousins’ imagery isn’t quite as rough. This film also includes some clips from Anthony Rizzo’s comic educational film from the 1950s, Duck and Cover, introducing a method of personal protection against nuclear explosion.
Joonatan Nikkinen (translated by Jenni Kaunisto)