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Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds
Oppenheimer isn't just a film, it's an experience..
Adapted from the American novel named "American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer" written by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, Oppenheimer is the one of the most anticipated movies of this year and I can assert that it deserves all the hype that has been revolving around it. Directed by Christopher Nolan, one of the best directors I have ever come across, he is a class apart for me as he never fails to portray through his films(Oppenheimer is no exception),how human beings are the creators and destroyers of this world while science and technology act as mediums of creation or destruction, mere pawns in the hands of the human beings and sometimes, when the burden of the consequences becomes too heavy, humans have to pay for their actions- their moral conscience smirks at them with everything going haywire.
In Greek Mythology Prometheus is called the "God of Fire", the one who stole fire defying the Olympian Gods and gave it to mankind, though later he was punished by Zeus, the king of Olympian Gods, Oppenheimer also known as "The father of atomic bomb" in this world is compared to Prometheus because both Prometheus and Oppenheimer created a new world bringing new civilization and empowered mankind with a weapon that can destroy the world, paving the way to the creation of a new world. However the use of this weapon depended solely on the discretion of human beings and the new world had its pros and cons as deep down the new world always carried the aftermath of the destruction which led to its creation.
Oppenheimer was born in Germany, and was a Jewish American theoretical physicist who was the director of the Manhattan project conducted in Los Alamos laboratory located in New Mexico during Second World War. Oppenheimer's story isn't unknown to the world but through this film we live Oppenheimer's experience, his zenith and nadir, his triumph and tragedy within a span of 180 minutes. Nolan's films have always fascinated me ever since I was a high school kid and watched "Batman Trilogy" for the first time, it wasn't just the story of a superhero named Batman, it was a story of a human being named Bruce Wayne who beneath that mask and armour aspired to save his city named Gotham from every threat, every possible danger going out of his way. His films have this finesse of providing equal space for the story and the character, giving space to the actors as well as the mind-boggling cinematography to thrive together, thus weaving masterpieces.
There are certain moments in the film which I will simply be unable to put into words. For instance, the day of the Trinity Test, the uncertainty that revolved around the catastrophic consequences of the chain reactions and after the test's success, Oppenheimer's most famous utterance - "Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds", the juxtaposition of guilt and success while Oppenheimer addressed the people of Los Alamos just after the test's success through the excellent superimposition of the images of the faces of people in the crowd showing the audience how Oppenheimer experiences both the emotions at the same time, Oppenheimer's meeting with President Truman, where his guilt becomes explicit when he tells, "I have blood on my hands" which reminded me of Lady Macbeth's famous monologue from the sleepwalking scene in Macbeth, "All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand...what's done cannot be undone", the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate's utterance while washing of his hands before the multitude, saying- "I am innocent of the blood of this just person(Jesus Christ)". Guilt overshadows the success especially when that success is achieved at the cost of human lives and Nolan doesn't leave a stone unturned in depicting this through the inner contradiction of Oppenheimer.
Oppenheimer is elevated to the stature of a tragic hero whose hubris ironically was his unflickering faith upon the people with and around whom he worked and whose hamartia was unwavering love and loyalty towards his nation leading not entirely to his downfall but to the questioning his integrity thus tormenting him and his beliefs when his security clearance was revoked(a result of his personal rivalry with Lewis Strauss, Former United States Secretary of Commerce).
The plot of Oppenheimer as I said earlier isn't anything new but the way it's presented onscreen is what makes the difference, the screenplay, cinematography, direction and the acting everything is top notch which is typically expected of Nolan's films. However the cherry on the top of the cake is Cillian Murphy finally playing the lead role in this film after enacting the role of side characters in six other films of Nolan. I absolutely fell in love with Cillian Murphy's acting when I started watching Peaky Blinders and since then Thomas Shelby and Murphy have been inseparable for me. Being an avid Murphy fan and having watched almost all of his films, I can proudly assert that he is one of a kind and I envision him lifting the Oscar for this role. Very few actors have such expressive eyes like Murphy; his eyes express an entire of range of emotions and Nolan makes full use of this trait of Murphy through the close-up shots of Cillian's face which is a treat to the eyes of every cinephile.
I have only heard stories about real life Oppenheimer mostly from my father and have seen him and his interviews in YouTube but watching the reel life Oppenheimer created, designed and enacted by one of my favourite director and actor is a rewarding experience which will linger in my heart and soul for a long time.
Dr J. Robert Oppenheimer like Victor Frankenstein created a monster whose power when unleashed destroyed the world in Oppenheimer's case, it tainted his moral compass as well. During his conversation with Einstein, Albert refused to help Oppenheimer when he sought help from him, he just said, "It's yours, You'll have to live with the consequences of it". Both Einstein and Oppenheimer knew the consequences that the drastic scientific revolution will bring to this world and therefore Einstein always warned Oppenheimer. Like never-ending chain reactions, Oppenheimer's moral culpability was therefore indeed eternal.
The film Oppenheimer is a scathing critique on the exploitation of science by mankind and its effect on mankind, it raises questions as to where does humanity stand in this technologically driven world.... Are human beings humane or reduced to automatons.. Science has indeed progressed over the years but at what cost.....who is paying the cost... ???
Nolan has previously gifted us with films like the 'Batman Trilogy', 'Prestige', 'Interstellar', and 'Inception'. His films always carry an inherent touch of sci-fi, and 'Oppenheimer' shares the same essence, albeit as a real-life story of a person and a significant incident that caused mass destruction, shaking one's faith in humanity. Rewatching this event and reflecting on the circumstances that led to it raises questions about the world's current state. In the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine war, where multiple threats of nuclear war are resurfacing, we wonder if we will ever learn from our mistakes or if we will continue to repeat them, leading to our own destruction. The choice of whether human beings will use science to save the world or to destroy it now lies with us.
This article is contributed by Srilekha Mitra who prefers to bask in the reel world of films over reality.