Dear Future: What Were We Thinking?

Danish artist Michael Madsen’s Into Eternity documents what amounts to an antimonument to negativity. Admirably forward-thinking, if undeniably quixotic, Finland’s government has undertaken the task of digging a hole in which to bury nuclear waste deep in the Earth. Located 100 miles northwest of Helsinki, Onkalo (Finnish for “hiding place”) is intended to last 100,000 years; the first — and, so far, the only — such tomb (which will hold only a fraction of the world’s spent nuclear fuel) is a place that, as the filmmaker puts it, humans must remember to forget. As befits its science-fiction premise, much of Into Eternity purports to address the people of the future — perhaps they will happen upon Onkalo just as a group of French teenagers stumbled upon the cave paintings at Lascaux in 1940. Into Eternity is not so much warning (although it is that) as head trip. Madsen’s crisp, coolly symmetrical images evoke the clean lines of Finnish functional design and Errol Morris’ formalism — as does the gravitas-inducing slo-mo and ironic use of music (Sibelius, Varèse, Kraftwerk). Defamiliarizing the snowy Nordic landscape, this delicately lurid documentary has a somber beauty. It is meant to boggle the mind and inspire awe — and it does. As in 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Time Machine, the story of the human race comes full circle. The unknown past meets the unknowable future in a wintry ground zero.
May 27-June 2, 7 & 8:45 p.m., 2011

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