Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” premieres | The director of “Batman” and “Interstellar” investigates the life of the creator of the atomic bomb

The secrecy around Oppenheimer seems to compete with the official cloak of silence around the Manhattan Project, carried out at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, between 1942 and 1945, where research and development of the first atomic bomb took place. the history. It is that the new film by the British Christopher Nolan did not participate in any major international festival before its commercial launch, and the journalistic embargo for those who were able to see the film at the world premiere in Paris, a few days ago, prevents us from knowing in detail the forms and scope of the story. Its content, its themes, on the other hand, are evident and well-known: in the manner of a biopic, but with very characteristic temporal crossings in the author’s cinema (remember Dunkirk), Director of memento and Batman: The Dark Knight Rises set out to narrate the inner turmoil of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist born in Manhattan in 1904 who would eventually become the “father of the atomic bomb,” as the press used to call him after the genocidal explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A complex, contradictory man who would go from being on the cover of Life magazine to being watched and persecuted by the United States government on suspicion of having communist affiliations, and who after dedicating three intense years of his life to achieving fission controlled destructive nuclear power would mount a personal campaign to warn about the dangers of nuclear war. Starring Cillian Murphy in the central role, accompanied in the cast by figures such as Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr. and Florence Pugh, the film is based on a script written by Nolan himself that is based on American Prometheus – The Triumph and Tragedy by J. Robert Oppenheimer, the book by biographers and historians Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin published in 2005 and is considered the definitive biography of the man and his times. Oppenheimer will have a massive premiere next Thursday the 20th, and in addition to its launch in theater complexes and on the huge digital Imax screen, it will have some performances in 35mm format, first at the Leopoldo Lugones Theater and then, in August, at Malba Cinema.

“Like that rebellious Greek god, Prometheus, who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to humanity, Oppenheimer gave us atomic fire. But when he wanted to control it, when he tried to make us aware of the terrible dangers it entailed, the powers that be, like Zeus, reacted with fury and punished him,” Bird and Sherwin write in the foreword to their book, precisely explaining the choice of title, intertwining mythology with applied science, human limits with the possibility of reaching the destructive power of the ancient gods. “For scientists such as Dr. Hideki Yukawa, the first Japanese to win the Nobel, Oppenheimer was ‘a symbol of the tragedy of the contemporary nuclear scientist,'” the description continues, now in strictly human terms. “For liberals, he was the foremost martyr of the McCarthyite witch-hunt, a symbol of the right-wing’s unprincipled spite. For his political enemies, he was a covert communist and a proven liar. In the words of Christopher Nolan, who began giving interviews a couple of weeks before the premiere (and that someone could see the shots that make up the film, beyond those that are present in the trailer), it is without half measures of the most important figure of the 20th century.

A staunch defender of analogue formats over digital ubiquity, the filmmaker shot his latest film again in the original IMAX system, a descendant of the 70mm big-screen formats of the past, and in every public statement about his desires to create the character based on the man of flesh and blood never failed to highlight the absence of digital effects (known familiarly as CGI) in his film. “Recreating the Trinity Test, the first nuclear detonation in history, without the use of computer graphics was a huge challenge. One of the first people I showed the script to was the visual effects supervisor, Andrew Jackson, and I told him what my intentions were. What we needed was a thread between Oppenheimer’s inner process—his visions of himself, his visualization of atoms, molecules, waves of energy, those interactions—and the ultimate expression of destructive power when that force is released. I think digital effects are versatile, you can do all sorts of things, but they tend to be too safe ground for the viewer.”

But Oppenheimer is not, in essence and above all things, a special effects film. Although the nuclear explosion of July 16, 1945 in New Mexico, less than a month before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima – the same detonation that David Lynch transformed into audiovisual experimentation in the famous chapter 8 of Twin Peaks – The Return– occupies a central place in the story. Alternating color and black and white, jumping between different times in the life and work of the scientist, alternating public or secret activities with the daily matrimonial and filial life, the three hours of footage try to reconstruct and detail the lights and shadows of the honoree. Beginning with his own condition as a Jew raised in reformism, he was born into a family of descendants of European immigrants with a very good economic background who wanted, before anything else, to fully assimilate into American society. Sherwin and Bird decide on a lengthy chapter on Oppenheimer’s childhood and youth, highlighting the fact that the young Robert (the previous Julius was conscientiously removed, replaced by a simple “J.”) studied at the Society of Education school. Ethical Culture, founded by Jewish immigrants at the end of the 19th century, committed to social action and humanitarianism, and whose motto was forceful: “Facts, not beliefs”. “Felix Adler and his group of competent teachers,” the historians write, “would have a powerful influence on the spiritual formation of Robert Oppenheimer, both emotionally and intellectually.” The little prodigy, who shone as a student both in the hard fields of physics and chemistry as well as in learning languages ​​(at the age of fifteen he was reading Latin and Greek, among other modern languages), was destined to be one of the essential figures of the century that was just beginning to emerge. A century that left behind the horrors of the Great War of 14, whose disastrous corollaries suggested that something similar would never happen again, optimistic unconsciousness that would remain buried in the mud of the Second World War, first, and later in the Civil War. Cold and the constant threat of the bomb, which no one ever learned to love.

“Oppenheimer and many other physicists in the country knew, as early as February 1939, that building an atomic bomb was feasible. However, awakening the government’s interest in it would take time. A month before the war broke out in Europe, on September 1, 1939, Leó Szilárd had convinced Albert Einstein to sign a letter (written by himself) addressed to President Franklin Roosevelt. In it he was warned that “a new type of bombs of extraordinary power can be built.” He noted that ‘a single bomb of this type, transported by ship and detonated in the port, could destroy the entire port and part of the surrounding territory’. He also hinted, fatefully, that the Germans might already be working on such a weapon: ‘I think Germany has stopped selling the uranium from the Czechoslovakian mines it has captured.’ The excerpt, taken from the chapter “The Rapid Rupture Coordinator” of american prometheus, perfectly describes the spirit of the times, ushering in the nuclear race. The zeitgeist that Nolan tries to reproduce on the screen from his fictional story (obviously, based on very real events).

The contradictions and personal doubts are nothing more than a reflection of the fears and anxieties that ran through the veins of the scientists. At least those of those concerned about the limits of what they were about to create, a Frankenstein of uranium protons that would start a new era in material destruction. in the trailer for oppenheimer You can see a couple of brief shots of one of the many meetings of the American scientist – who had studied in Germany, the country of part of his ancestors – with Albert Einstein, who a couple of years after the war declared that “of Had I known that the Nazis had made no progress in developing their own bomb, I would not have lifted a finger.” The thinker behind both theories of relativity had, of course, supported the development of the hydrogen bomb to beat the National Socialist government of his country in the arms race, and he was one of the people who strictly defended Oppenheimer’s honor when he began to be persecuted for his left-wing affinities from 1954.

Safe candidate for several awards in the next awards season, oppenheimer It was in Nolan’s head for many years, as the theory that made possible the actual manufacture of “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,” the fancy names for the uranium-filled devices that killed nearly 200,000 thousand. Japanese in a matter of seconds. “It’s an incredible idea,” declared the director in conversation with Wired magazine. “All those people doing calculations, weighing the relationship between theory and the real world, thinking that there is a small chance that they will end up destroying the whole world. And yet they pushed the button. A lot of people know Oppenheimer’s name, know that he was involved in the atomic bomb and that there is something there that puts him in a difficult place in relation to the history of the United States. But not much else, nothing too specific. Frankly, for me that is the ideal audience for the film. People you don’t know are about to appreciate a wild story. Because it’s a really wild story, and Oppenheimer is the most important man who ever lived.”

We would love to thank the writer of this write-up for this remarkable material

Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” premieres | The director of “Batman” and “Interstellar” investigates the life of the creator of the atomic bomb