Tuesday, July 24, 2007

White Light, Black Rain

White Light, Black Rain opens with scenes from present day Hiroshima. The vibe of the city is upbeat and very western. Random young people on the street are asked one question - do they know why August 6 1945 is a very significant date in history. No one knows. All it takes for a nuclear bombing and its aftermath to pass into oblivion from public memory is sixty years.

Then we meet with the survivors themselves who tell their stories with amazing grace and stoicism. There are no tears or hysterics as they recall in graphic detail the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and how it altered their lives for ever. We meet a woman who has had six unexplained miscarriages, another one who has tumors erupt randomly on her body, a man whose flesh had melted away from his ribs to where he can see his heart beating.

There is pain that goes far beyond the horrifying physical mutilation that they have lived with all their lives. They are called the "Pika-Don" people (survivors of the A-bombing). No one knows what diseases they have, how they may manifest themselves or how they can be healed. No one wants to be around them fearing contagion. Their children find it hard to find marriage partners due to fear of genetic defects that could be passed down the generations.

When you listen to the interviews with the survivors you begin to wonder if an event as horrifying as the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings elevates pain and suffering to an inhuman and therefore unfathomable level. We neither have the words nor the sensience to communicate and comprehend what happened.

The images of the victims being nursed to health in the hospitals are too gruesome to watch. Some of those images are the survivors that the movie introduces us to. You do not have the option of recoiling from the sight of melting flesh and eyeballs missing from their sockets. You are forced to see the remnants of the human being talk to you about how it was to be that stomach churning photograph taken sixty years ago.

Then we meet the team that dropped the bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At least on the surface there does not seem to be a lot of guilt about what they caused to happen though some voice their regret quite candidly. For the rest, it was mission like any other except the damage was far greater than the norm. War is inherently about death and destruction and this one was no different. Ultimately, it was what caused the war to end.

You see footage of the jubilation in America after Japan surrendered. You also see people go about their daily lives in modern day Nagasaki and Hiroshima. In 1945 perhaps not enough was known about the extent of damage for people to be able to react appropriately. In 2007, in Japan the significance of day far back in 1945 has been lost due to the passage of time.

In end you are left wondering if the most unspeakable horrors of the past are better forgotten or remembered and how do you truly honor and acknowledge the pain of the victims and survivors.


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