Architectures of danger

Architectures of danger

Images: Color film

With "Under control" a lucid documentary about the hidden and visible dangers of nuclear energy hit theaters.

As "Unter Kontrolle" at this year’s Berlinale on 11. When the film celebrated its world premiere in February, director Volker Sattel and his scriptwriter Stefan Stefanesku were still not sure in the subsequent audience discussion whether their film – despite the approaching Chernobyl anniversary – would be noticed at all outside of TV screenings on ARTE or WDR. With the Fukushima reactor disaster, this changed: "Under control" is likely to have a glittering cinema release – and rightly so!

The essence of atomic energy is invisible – to the cultural be-. "Unter Kontrolle" has dedicated itself to precisely this task: over the years, Volker Sattel and his team have toured nuclear power plants in Germany and Austria. They talked to engineers there, loved to see accident scenarios, safety techniques and, last but not least, those structures inside the often imposing buildings that are not visible from the outside. Their journey took them to reactors in operation, shut down, in the process of demolition, and unfinished.

Fission production

Her encounter with nuclear energy technology provided a twofold narrative: on the one hand, there are the architectures, buildings – especially the often typical semi-circular safety domes around the reactor cores and the biconcave-shaped cow towers standing close to them – which for decades have become, as it were, symbols of this type of energy production … which, however, must mostly be viewed from a distance, because safety regulations prevent "unauthorized" prohibit the approach … whose distinctive and landscape-marking appearance is such as to prevent such "unauthorized persons" even at a respectful distance – for fear of invisible radioactivity.

architectures of danger

The other side of the film shows people who are close to the reactors: the technicians who work in the power plants. But also those who are engaged in the demolition and disposal of the buildings and their inventory. They are not afraid of radiation. They themselves radiate a "security" like the employee who is standing in the waiting "waiting hall" for the castors ready for transport, places his hand almost delicately on one of the holders and tells the onlooker how pleasantly warm it is. And last but not least, there are the staff of the International Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority in Vienna, which sees itself as the last bastion between the danger and its containment and economic exploitation. How far removed the two interviewees of the IAEA are from the actual events is already shown by the coziness of their office furnishings between stacks of paper and coffee machines.

aesthetics and anasthesia

"Under Control" presents an aesthetic paradox in its images – not because it is actually about something that is invisible. It is not that at all for the film: already the opening and closing titles show that film is one of the few media that can remove radioactivity from invisibility. The title sequence shows images from a cloud chamber in which the paths of radioactivity are traced "traced" and how this is recorded by the film as an encounter. And radioactivity has always inscribed itself in film in other ways as well "" – here and there in feature films whose plot is set in the aftermath of nuclear war: whether there is "Drauben" is still dangerous can be seen if you have an unexposed film with you that is blackened by radiation.

Architectures of danger

No, the paradox in "Under control" is rather a visible one: in the curves of the typical nuclear power plant architecture, which almost exude something like sensuality, brought closer by the camera, closer than they would a "Unauthorized" ever got to see, it reveals itself. The from afar plain industrial architecture of the concrete-grey buildings is transformed by the approach and impressive "and impressive enlargement" into the visually sublime. The sublime, as we have known since Burke and Kant, is, however, an aesthetic quality of nature, which with its coarseness, infinity and sublime danger makes man aware of his insignificance and limitations, and thus causes that shudder that Caspar David Friedrich’s "Wanderer in the Sea of Fog" may well feel at the moment depicted.

Sublime defogging strategies

By getting so close to the nuclear power plant buildings, by tracing their round structures, but also by repeatedly capturing the buildings in shifted perspectives that bring their immense coarseness onto the cinema screen, Volker Sattel, who himself directed the camera for his film, symbolizes this sublime, which takes place invisibly inside them. In the reversal of circumstances, it is the immensely small of the regulated chain reaction that takes place in the reactor, to which the incomparably coarser human being feels helplessly exposed "". And he feels nothing at all; not even when the chain reaction – as in Chernobyl and now in Fukushima – is no longer controlled. Only hours, days, weeks, months or years later – depending on how far he gets into the "unauthorized" inaccessible zone or how far the zone has. zone has expanded imperceptibly, his anasthesia ends "Anasthesia" and begins his "shudder" in the form of radiation sickness.

architectures of danger

By approaching the Hulle, the shifted perspectives, suggesting the seemingly infinite coarseness and height of the buildings, provides "Under Control" provides a corrective reversal of these inverted conditions. Just as postmodern aesthetics has understood the sublime as being roused from the aesthetic slumber of modernity, Sattel’s film rubs nuclear energy out of its untraceability through its visual power. He shows us this in the ignorance and indolence of the operators and technicians, whose rhetoric still turns every possible catastrophe into a controllable incident "incident" or controllable "incident" and whose security is also reflected in the megalomaniac architecture.

Volker Sattel’s "Under Control" The project was no less successful than using symbolism to show that nature cannot be controlled and, in the case of nuclear power, cannot even be controlled "control" let. The title of his film is ironic through and through – that’s why his film doesn’t need a concrete statement: the documentarists don’t speak throughout the film; they let the interviewees speak, and above all the images speak.

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