Chernobyl documentary footage vs. scenes from the show

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/06/13/chernobyl-documentary-footage.html

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The HBO series was fantastic. I had already seen several documentaries on Chernobyl, so when watching I already picked out some inconsistencies/artistic license. I did squee when they showed the Lunkahod. We had one of the full sized mockups at the space museum I worked at.

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Thank you so very much for the Link to Gessen’s piece.

This saves me the pain of watching the series and being aghast why everyone loved it so much.
I might enjoy it now for the acting, and the drama, without worries about actual vs. fictional events.

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Somehow I knew the HBO series would have a blue-green tone and the original footage would be brownish.

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This is the best piece on how wrong HBO got the facts…

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Really interesting article, wasn’t expecting the weird heel turn in the last couple of paragraphs.

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Even the article gets its facts wrong:

"Nor did radiation from the melted reactor contribute to the crash of a helicopter, as is strongly suggested in “Chernobyl.” "

Suggested, maybe, but if you watch the film the rotors clip a crane and that is what leads to the crash - just like the real event, only it happened much later in the time line.

With any historical drama, there will be tweaks to make it more, you know, dramatic. Characters almost always need to be condensed some. Watch documentaries for better accuracy. Though I was still pretty impressed with a lot that they did nail.


Question for the room - British accents - should they have tried to do a Russian accent assuming they could do a GOOD one? Or no? It was a bit distracting to me, but I am thinking if you were British you wouldn’t notice, and if they were American, I wouldn’t notice.

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I thought the British accents were weird when I started watching, but I quickly got used to them. I also read the New Yorker piece, and while the program isn’t perfect, it’s some damn good television.

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We have to use nuclear until we figure out fusion. Climate change is a greater risk.

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No. We do not.

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That sort of “um, actually…” tone in the New Yorker article linked annoy me so much. Yes, the show applies some artistic license. So what? It’s a TV show depicting a dramatized version of the events, not a documentary. And what people seem to fail to understand (or just ignore for “um, actually” points) that the show’s main audience is people who have never lived in the Eastern Bloc (and are likely too young to have been alive in 1986), for whom the world of the Soviet Union is completely alien and incomprehensible to a very high degree. The showrunners need the exaggerations, dramatizations, simplifications to help make viewers understand how something that is so absurd and unbelievable could still be real (and of course to make the story roll along smoother, because real life is always too complicated). Even with this I see Westerners watching the show and going “holy crap, tell me this is just an exaggeration” - pointing at something that is most definitely not.

In my experience most of us who have “been there” (in my case in Hungary) and are still there, we don’t watch the show rolling our eyes over the unrealistic/exaggerated parts. In my experience most of us watch it going “yes, this is the attitude we remember” “yes, these are the sort of people we used to see, know, deal with” “yes, this is how things worked”. For a lot - I’d say most - of us it’s almost painfully familiar, and the obviously dramatized elements change nothing about that. For me personally it was a bit like someone ripping open a wound that I didn’t really know I’ve had.

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Death of Stalin

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I think if someone watches this show and walks away thinking “how dare it suggest that nuclear is bad!” it’s not on the show, it’s them missing the point so hard they might as well be on a different planet.

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Huh, a writer for Forbes defending the nuclear industry (and the status quo). There’s a plot twist nobody could have seen coming …

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Thanks for bringing your point of view. I watched it with someone who was in the region at the time, as a child, and so they were personally affected. Their comments were similar to yours.

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As riveting as ‘Chernobyl’ is, I think you’re right that climate change is the greater risk.

It would be cool if we could get subcritical reactors to work well. If I were in charge, that’s where I’d put my fission $.

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The video with side by side shots was riveting. I haven’t watch the miniseries yet and this certainly puts it on my list to watch.

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About the accents, it doesn’t bother me at least. I feel like some of the actors put on a very slight non-British twang but it’s faint and might just be me imagining it due to the setting. Stellan Skarsgård makes perfect use of his Swedish accented English though. I’m pretty sure he does modify it a bit away from how he usually speaks English.

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The time I mostly noticed that were when they were saying something stereotypically Russian/Soviet, such as “Comrade”. I read an interview with one of the show runners recently, and the accent came up - he mentioned that initially they were going to but decided against it when they realised that, for most non-Russians, attempting the accent rapidly falls into parody and farce.

Like you, it doesn’t bother me in the least. Having a variety of accents, to hint at the vastness and diversity within Russia, is more far more engaging than trying to shoehorn everyone into a half-pie rendition of someone’s perception of ‘what Russian sounds like.’

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Good point. Fake country accents tend to sounds worse than fake regional accents within the same language because they get so stereotypical and have no diversity. Either cast all Russian actors to speak in their own language and/or accents or just stick to English. Just make sure the miners don’t sound like they grew up in Windsor Palace.

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