Into Eternity follows the construction of the Onkalo waste repository at the Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant on the island of Olkiluoto, Finland. Nuclear waste takes at least 10,000 years to process itself from being harmful to living organisms. The film explores the question of preparing the site so that it is not disturbed for 100,000 years, even though no structure in human history has stayed standing for such a long period.
The staff of the repository thoroughly cross-sections every logical justification for the repository, trying to ponder on the many possibile hypothetical scenarios thousands of years into the future. I was fascinated by the film’s big questions. Where would human civilization be in 100,000 years? Will the Ice Age complicate things? Will language stay the same? Will people understand the warnings? If so, will they heed the warnings? Is there be a way to profit off the nuclear waste? Can someone try to reuse the plutonium for more power or even weaponize it? What an infinite amount of unanswerable questions, and yet the safety of humanity hangs on the pure faith that man will do good. Like seeing a map of the Milky Way, Into Eternity made me feel infinitesimal and how ultimately limited we are as humans. We like to think we are in control of things. But as the film suggests, we are our own biggest threat to our future survival.
The film communicates it message heavy-handedly. Every interviewee’s credentials are displayed with the interviewee’s handwritten signature super-imposed over it as if to officially prove to future viewers that this film is no joke. It is approached as if it will be a found footage film warning people not to enter the repository 100,000 years from now. The director Michael Madsen intermittently lights a match in total darkness and recites his monologue quietly to scare the audience and hammer in his point. If he were a young hipster, he would have done these monologues topless. It’s quite silly out of its own context. It is by no means subtle, but it does not need to be. It ultimately offers no answers to it questions but instead it ends on a bittersweet note, totally aware of all the good and ugly things human beings are capable of. I found it both deeply disturbing and deeply poetic.
The topic of nuclear waste storage should be a bigger topic. Everybody should see this film. Highly recommended.