La Terre Outragée will turn heads. This beautifully textured drama about the Chernobyl disaster and its long-term legacy was shot on location, giving the film a shocking sense of immediacy. The camera captures the sobering reality of the environmental catastrophe that devastated Ukraine. But the eerily vacant landscape is only a backdrop to the human cost of the tragedy, which is what director and writer Michale Boganim focuses on in her authoritative feature debut.
The film begins in pastoral reverie as a young couple drifts down a sun-dappled river, a place where boys frolic and fishermen dip their rods. Anya (Olga Kurylenko) and Piotr (Nikita Emshanov) are about to be married, but news arrives of an accident at the nuclear power plant, and Piotr, a firefighter, is summoned away from his nuptials. Soon rain begins to fall — black rain — and the disaster's full dimension starts to percolate into the consciousness of the people of Pripyat, a town only a few kilometers away from the power station.
A few years later, Anya is now a local guide for curious tourists who don radiation-proof suits and bus through the town snapping photos of a transformed world. Like many others, Anya finds herself caught between leaving and staying.
As her heroine struggles with her demons, Boganim depicts a community that, despite the dangers, refuses to leave its history behind. The residents' houses — derelict, abandoned and overgrown with weeds — nestle within an area still contaminated with too much radioactivity to be safe, but the lure of the place they call home is like a siren. Squatters move in to family houses while relatives of those killed find themselves trapped and unable to make sense of it all. The aftermath of Chernobyl is fully exposed, forcing us to imagine what a nuclear future might look like — something the people of Fukushima have only just recently contemplated.