Review: An Zéro – Comment le Luxembourg a disparu
- Julien Becker and Myriam T.’s docu-fiction imagines the consequences of a nuclear catastrophe on the future of the Grand Duchy
In March 2012, a year after the events of Fukushima, the Luxembourg parliament adopted a motion which stipulates that the nuclear plant of Cattenom, situated in France, 35km away from the capital of Luxembourg, “threatens the sovereignty and perennity of the Luxembourg nation.” The revelation of flaws in the security systems of this flagship of Lorraine energy, which was first put into service back in 1986, further intensified protests and complaints. The government is putting pressure for a cessation of activities at the plant, whose lifespan was originally set to be of thirty years. However, its operator EDF has just started construction works to prolong its activities. The stakes are extremely high: this is the third biggest nuclear plant in France, and its first reactor alone produces 2% of France’s electricity.
Known for his short films which mix thriller and science fiction (22:22 and Article 19-42), director Julien Becker took hold of this topic with passion. To set up his docu-fiction An Zéro [+see also:
interview: Julien Becker
film profile], premiering at the Luxembourg City Film Festival, he partnered with Myriam Tonelotto (Myriam T.) and Thomas Tomschak. Together, they imagined the overheating then the sudden explosion of a Cattenom reactor and the exact sequence of events that would follow. From the first signals, misunderstood by the inhabitants who are directly under threat (75% of the Luxembourg population lives in the first security perimeter of the plant), to the unfolding of evacuation measures, without forgetting panic-driven movements: everything is re-created with realism and a solid work of documentation.
An Zéro is a great showcase for some of the best Luxembourg actors of the moment: they play citizens taken by surprise, with different levels of implication. Sophie Mousel and Joël Delsaut form the duo of journalists covering the cataclysm live. We find them again a few years later, Luxembourg now a real no man’s land and its population spread across refugee camps in other countries. The lawyer played by Luc Schiltz (hero of the series Capitani) wants to unveil the secrets buried by the plant’s operators. By his side, viewers can put images and words on a situation that is hard to imagine: the gradual extinction of the cultural identity of an entire country.
The strength of the film also lies in its permanent back and forth movement between fictional sequences and testimonies from real experts. The writers have interviewed politicians, physicians, a lawyer specialised in refugees’ rights, a constitutionalist, historians. All share their reactions and imagine the impact of the catastrophe. Someone mentions in passing the fact that many French nuclear installations were voluntarily placed along the country’s borders with Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg… Sharp, fascinating, some of them even frightening, the subjects’ comments give an additional layer to the unique project that is An Zéro. Accompanied by 3D animations which adopt the aesthetic of future-set science fiction films, these interviews are presented with originality and humour.
In addition to the film, a mobile app will allow users to live the day of the catastrophe moment by moment. This app will be launched on the day of the film’s first broadcast on Arte. The project is produced by Skill Lab Creative Studio with the German NDR.
(Translated from French)
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