“A film about the price we have to pay for the consequences of our success.” So said Emily Blunt, who plays the wife of Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, in Christopher Nolan’s film of the same name. And the fact that Blunt means a bomb by “success” seems frightening. Actress mistake? No, unfortunately you are wrong. In fact, in the film, the main problem of the protagonist is not in the death of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but in the fact that he did not make death possible on a large scale and, potentially, the destruction of mankind. Instead, he is worried about the ingratitude of his fellow citizens and the envy of politicians who want to hinder his career on the pretext that he frequented communists in his youth (this is the period of McCarthyism).
What a bad world, milady. In general, the film for the most part consists of two legal drama interlaced in interleaved editing and filmed in black and white. In one of them we see the interrogation of Oppenheimer by the commission of inquiry in 1954. This is a farce to delegitimize him and remove him from his position on the Atomic Energy Commission, run by the President of the same Commission and his antagonist Lewis Strauss. In another interrogation that takes place in 1959, the investigation this time concerns Strauss and is to confirm his appointment to the important government position of Minister of Commerce, but the exposure of his past misconduct towards Oppenheimer will cause him to lose his appointment and be forever end a career.
The questions posed in these two processes bring to the surface colored fragments of the past and allow us to trace Oppenheimer’s career, from years of study, to teaching at the university as a physicist, to leading the Manhattan Project, which led to the creation of the first atomic bomb. This last large passage is told according to the stylistic features of the work. caper film (Ocean’s Eleven or The usual unknownto understand): recruitment, preparatory work, failures, and finally a coup that may or may not succeed. Here it even succeeds with a bang, because this is the first test atomic explosion that occurred on July 16, 1945 in the New Mexico desert. The scene was filmed as if it were, in fact, some caper film, with anticipation, countdown, and then jubilation of the project participants. A choice that makes it literally obscene, because this type of story emotionally engages the viewer, who can’t help but sympathize for at least a moment with the characters who created it (at least, one would hope that the viewer will look at himself from the side immediately after that). terrified, because what is at stake here is not pasta and chickpeas or a casino safe).
Nolan then inserts a minimum of remorse, some expressionistic hallucinations of the protagonist, and the line “I have the impression that my hands are covered in blood,” which is immediately silenced by United States President Truman, who arrogantly replies, “Only my hands are dirty.” As if to say: you scientists do your technical work without asking questions, decisions are made elsewhere. Again, therefore, it comes down to a problem of power relations, not ethics. But Oppenheimer, on the one hand, justified as a cog in a cog, therefore, through his reduction, nevertheless, is also extolled, even mythologised by Nolan with the help of the phrase that appears among the outbreaks of the atomic mushroom at the beginning of the film, as an epigraph: “Prometheus stole the fire from the gods and gave it to people, for which they tied him to a rock and tortured him forever” (although in the film the punishment comes only from envy of one’s neighbors). American Prometheusas the title of the book the movie is based on suggests.
On the contrary, what comes to mind is the Promethean shame mentioned by Günther Anders (1902-1992), the philosopher who, more than anyone else, devoted his thoughts to the atomic bomb. Anders writes that in the twentieth century, man has created something with the help of technology, the scale of which he is not even able to understand, something so huge that he can only feel that he is now worth less than the things he creates, which have become overlords. Total. his life and his death. The man is old fashioned, just like the title of one of his books, and for this reason the new Prometheus is ashamed of being already obsolete compared to what he created. But luckily for him, Nolan’s Oppenheimer didn’t read Anders and may remain a scandalously unscrupulous Prometheus.