Will Preston

A chilling story of what could have been and what could still happen

by on Mar.02, 2011, under Review, Television

One thing I keep forgetting about is that I technically spent two years of my life in the Cold War. Technically. Fortunately, the wall came down before the bombs could blow up. During the eighties, along with the threat of dire pop music and fashion was the imminent threat that the world would end under a nuclear holocaust. Countless megatons decimating the global population, damaging the world environment beyond believe and tearing apart the threads of society. Shocking thought isn’t it?

First Def Leppard, now this...

In 1984, a British made drama about the effects of World War Three was released at a very apt time. Shot in the style of a documentary, Threads focuses on the city of Sheffield before and after it is hit by the bomb. We are introduced to two families, the Beckett’s and the Kemps, joined together by an unplanned pregnant Ruth Becket by Jimmy Kemp. As well as this little soap drama piece, the global situation involving Soviet Russia is getting more tense, with the threat of war getting closer. The first half of the film shows a society getting more prepared for the bomb every day, with the council preparing for the worse and citizen’s panic buying like scared ants in a tumble dryer.

News reports showing the Soviet situation getting worse seems to serve as a barometer of how bad things are going to get. It’s a feeling that makes your stomach sink. You know for sure that the bomb is going to go off, but the waiting is just torture. Sure enough, the air raid sirens start to whine and the rattled city of Sheffield panics like a cat in a bin. A nuclear cloud is spotted in the horizon and everyone has only minutes to spare. Up to this point, I felt I was preparing myself for the worst. Unfortunately, this was pretty tame to what was set for the second half. Without giving too much away, we are shown step by step what happens to a nuclear ravaged Sheffield. Aspects that you wouldn’t even think of threatening a society after an attack like this are brought to horrifying light.

For fans of Fallout

As well as the instant death of millions of innocent people, the survivors are trapped, burned, starved, infected with disease and forced to find shelter. Oh, and of course there’s highly radioactive fallout killing everyone slowly through radiation poisoning, but now I’m just rambling on. To put it bluntly, civilization is fucked. The second half spans 13 years after the blast showing the long term affects to society, industry and health. One of the frightening aspects of Threads is the way it has been filmed. The documentary approach almost convinces you that this actually happened.

Ok, so it happened in Japan in the Forties, but this is on a global scale. A serious voiced narrator details exactly what effects are happening whilst feeding harsh statistics like a news report. And it’s hard to take in. It’s hard to take in the image of an entire suburb in flames with fire services completely unable to help. It’s hard to take in the image of a shell-shocked mother nursing the burnt body of her baby. It’s also hard to take in that this isn’t fantasy, this could have happened.

There are no heroes, no villains. Just people trying to survive in a harsh new world. This is possibly the most depressingly bleak experience for me since watching Requiem for a Dream alone after a particularly boring afternoon. As a anti-nuclear statements, this is all that should be needed to win the argument. As a viewing experience, it’s like staring into a hopeless radioactive abyss.

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