Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s short film Nuclear Waste depicts a day in the life of a small pocket of individuals working at what appears to be a radioactive material treatment plant. One of our main characters, a man tasked with driving the radioactive waste, goes about his job silently and dutifully. Likewise his mate, a woman he appears to live with in barracks on the job site, also goes about her routine of keeping the potentially radioactive laundry clean after the workers discard their gear. The man and woman connect briefly, also in a mechanical and routine fashion, though their intentions show that there is more going on here rather than just the mundane running out of another day.
It was only after reading the synopsis of the film on its Facebook page that I was able to collect more specific details. The man and woman, for example, are named Sergiy and Svetlana, respectively. The facility they work at, and seemingly live at, is in Chernobyl. I mention this not to point out what is missed or unclear by viewing the film straight-up, but to point out that the film conveys the mood and the routine exceptionally well, even though you may be unaware of all these specific details.
I didn’t need to know Chernobyl to know that radioactive materials were being disposed of, and I didn’t need to know their names to know their routine, and what they were trying to accomplish in their quiet, intimate moments. Beyond a language or cultural barrier, certain things make it through regardless. Thus, the film transcends any of these seeming limitations or obstacles.
That being said, however, it is a special kind of audience that can embrace an almost twenty-five minute silent film of seemingly joyless routine. It’s a slice of life, mechanical in execution, and feels emotionally lifeless for most of its running time, much like the harsh weather conditions it depicts. Aspects resonate, sure, but if your attention span is particularly short, this is not going to be an easy film to get through.
Nuclear Waste is a matter-of-fact film that revels in its monotony, capturing the mundane routines of a particularly unique lifestyle. It’s a view into a world previously unknown to me, but one that still establishes universal touchstones to connect with. It’s a stark film, but a powerful one nonetheless.
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