Chernobyl HBO Miniseries

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Dr. Funk, May 6, 2019.

  1. GregM

    GregM Ready to cross that fine line

    Daddyland, CA
    I agree and, not specific to this show, but there are many "British accents" that to my ear aren't British. Tons of Aussies that have invaded film and TV, and use supposedly British accents but of course their accent is different. And even among true British actors there are major differences, e.g., Michael Caine consciously uses a cockney accent that supposedly breaks down the class barrier. At some point it makes sense to stop being such a purist (or provincial) about such things and enjoy the way the actors portray their characters.
    GodShifter likes this.
  2. Chris from Chicago

    Chris from Chicago Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes

    Just finished it last night. This was white knuckle television. The whole thing, with the exception of the trial, stressed me out. Looked real. Felt real.
  3. Frozensoda

    Frozensoda Forum Resident

    Figures on a website filled with audiophiles everyone would become fixated on the actors’ accents.:p
  4. antonkk

    antonkk Senior Member

    May I add my 2 cents as as russian?

    First my response to the very naive forum members who think there is no "freedom" in Russia and that the state still covers it up. Not to mention the big bad Putin trying to poison the actors with polonium. Get real, folks! There were TENS of documentaries on Chernobyl even during the perestroika years, with very brutal and truthful accounts of the government screw up (as on every other tragic moments of soviet history). After the initial cover up which lasted a few days in May the state media slowly opened up about the scale of the disaster. 1987 was a turning point in soviet press freedom. By the late 80's the press became almost un-censored and Chernobyl became a goldmine for investigative reporters. I was a teen during the perestroika years but was reading press and watching TV like crazy and knew a lot about Chernobyl even back then. Not to mention that thousands of "liquidators" as we call 'em here lived to tell their story.

    Second my thoughts on the show - it was brilliant, the acting was great. A lot of moments felt totally authentic (the firefighters wife and her story for example) but there were some cringeworthy moments as well sadly:

    1. Most of the scenes depicting the power elites ranging from locals to Politburo looked like typical Hollywood cheese. And don't even get me started on Gorbachev, not because he looked nothing like the guy we all know but because he behaved totally different at the meetings. He never left the table, he spent hours listening to people and speaking himself.

    2. All of the KGB scenes were of the same kind - by 1986 and especially 1987 KGB was not feared, it was mostly respected as the least corrupt state institution (compared to the Interior Ministry). All of the KGB related dialogues sounded totally cheesy to me, like coming from a bad cold war era movie. The real KGB deputy chief would not give Legasov some sort of kafkanian BS, he would rather speak softly to the dissident academic and try to prove his point in terms of political situation etc. I don't mean that KGB didn't try to cover things up and put pressure on Legasov but KGB was NOT the one to decide on reactor modernisation etc. It was simply not in their competence, it was a matter for political leadership.

    3. By the late 80's Soviet Union was not a repressive stalinist state it was shown here. Ministers didn't threaten to throw academics off the helicopter (this was downright 007 laughable!), apparatchiks didn't drank vodka like cheap caricatures in their offices and of course the episode with a coal minister and the miners was insanely bad and false. You can't even imagine the coal minister coming to the mine with two armed soldiers - not to mention that the real prototype was himself an experienced miner and was widely respected among the miners. People volunteered to go to Chernobyl in their thousands, nobody was forced to go there.

    4. Vodka. OMG! Everybody's drinking vodka like crazy here. Another Hollywood stereotype that just refuses to die. In fact all the "liguidators" were drinking RED WINE!!! It was widely believed that it helped against the radiation back then.

    5. The real screw up in the series came in the 4th episode. The doghunters uniform look anything but soviet military. Especially the military caps - I mean the soviet military cap from the 80's is the easiest thing to obtain and replicate! These caps were totally fake as the were the 2 veteran soldiers types with long hair and latino/italian faces. My cousin was an Afghanistan vet and I know how they looked like back then. A short hair and a mostache would be really authentic but not the "mercenary" look. The young guy was pretty authentic though. The babushka who refused to leave was authentic until she mentioned the WW2 - no elderly soviet would ever say "germans and russians". It would be "germans and ours".
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2019
    Brenald79, Dr. Funk, Bungo and 15 others like this.
  5. Bender Rodriguez

    Bender Rodriguez RIP Exene, best dog ever. 2005-2016

    New Jersey
    But were the British accents ok?
    goodiesguy, EVOLVIST, APH and 6 others like this.
  6. Dhreview16

    Dhreview16 Forum Resident

    London UK
    Superb series.
  7. vince

    vince Stan Ricker's son-in-law

    OooooooOOOOOOOOhhh, you........
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  8. Bender Rodriguez

    Bender Rodriguez RIP Exene, best dog ever. 2005-2016

    New Jersey
    vince likes this.
  9. antonkk

    antonkk Senior Member

    Who cares? That's the least important thing about it all. I'm amazed that people spent half of this discussion focusing on that.
    AmosM, chumlie, musicarus and 12 others like this.
  10. antonkk

    antonkk Senior Member

    One major detail that clearly shows how different the country was in 1988 from the one shown in the series. Remember how Legasov hides his memoirs before hanging himself while being watched by KGB? Extracts from these memoirs were published in Pravda TWO DAYS after his suicide. Probably edited but still. And Pravda was the conservative paper. By then papers like Moscovskie Novosty (Moscow News) and MK were leading the way in telling all the truth about the disaster.
    Chris from Chicago and delmonaco like this.
  11. delmonaco

    delmonaco Forum Resident

    Sofia, Bulgaria
    I was expecting from you to post in this thread, and you did it brilliantly, IMO. All you wrote is spot on (I have to admit that I greatly enjoyed the scene with the miners and the minister, although I knew that it’s totally fabricated - but it’s a cinema after all, and it worked well as some sort of cheerful relief).

    IMO there’s one missed opportunity - AFAIK, few days after the explosion, on 1st of May, some music/artistic ensemble was sent to Chernobyl or Pripyat to play several shows for the liquidators. I saw an interview with one of the soloist, explaining how he sang in an open scene, while all the audience was wearing protective masks on their faces…this could be very interesting and powerful if it was included in the movie.

    All that said, I believe that you would agree that the series are great overall, and they show this tragedy that’s so familiar to you and other affected nations to a wider audience that wasn’t aware or interested about Chernobyl until now.
    GodShifter likes this.
  12. Jim Pattison

    Jim Pattison Forum Resident

    Kitchener ON
  13. RPM

    RPM Forum Resident

    Easter Island
    I remember watching a documentary about Chernobyl some 15 years ago, think it was on Discovery Channel. There was an actual Soviet footage of an interview with someone accused for the disaster that ended up in a mental institution and later killed himself. It was black and white footage, shot at a hospital / prison yard and he was saying something like that he is not guilty. This remained in my memory and the popularity of the HBO miniseries motivated me to search that documentary. The guy could be Nikolai Fomin, as Wikipedia mentions he had nervous breakdown before the trial, but I couldn't find the documentary itself. Could anyone help finding at least the title?
    GodShifter likes this.
  14. Larry Mc

    Larry Mc Forum Dude

    I'm waiting for the movie about the "Nuckeler" problems in Japan after that earthquake and tsunami that wasted that plant. Is it still contaminating the ocean?
  15. GodShifter

    GodShifter Low Key Faded Bro®

    Dallas, TX, USA

    Great article! I read every single bit.

    After reading, the mini series takes huge liberties with the facts, and while disappointing, I still think it was quite good. That said, if you’re a Russian, I could see having many, many problems with it.
  16. Plinko

    Plinko Forum Resident

  17. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident

    Just watched this over the course of the last couple days. I knew it would be bleak, but....
    I thought it was powerful and whatever dramatic license was taken, made for a compelling story. It was really a horror movie in some ways, with a political narrative. Jared Harris and Stellan Skarsgård were both wonderful in their roles.
    The bureaucratic bungling was something that I would expect of almost any country; ironically, I thought the story told here showed a lot of people willing to sacrifice to help their fellows in spite of the system. That is something about human nature that is noble. If I were an optimist I would like to think sort of selflessness would be universal.
  18. antonkk

    antonkk Senior Member

    Frankly, I don't. Despite several points that I mentioned earlier it's still by far the most authentic and convincing western production about USSR. One important thing that the show missed sadly though is that it failed to mention that Sherbina's life was not more or less over after Chernobyl. He played an outstanding role in 1988 Armenia earthquake relief effort. 1988's earthquake was a huge disaster that claimed 25 000 lives and reduced entire cities to rubble. While soviet PM Ryzhkov was widely praised for his role in organizing the excellent relief effort it was Sherbina who did some major job there before dying in 1990. The man if very fondly remembered and respected across the former Union.
  19. GentleSenator

    GentleSenator what if

    Aloha, OR
    like i said earlier: i wish they'd used stories from real life women who were there rather than make one up for the sake of drama. other than that, the embellishments weren't offensive to me as i wasn't expecting a documentary.
  20. I finished watching it. It was beautiful in its horror and terribly beautiful.

    There were many qualities of Russian literature. Like a tone poem. That gives enough artistic license to the showrunners to make it okay - it's poetry. Its people.
  21. fabre

    fabre Forum Resident

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It's always insightful to hear another perspective.
    I did post a lot of the critical articles (criticizing some Russian media) from Meduza not because I think "there is no freedom in Russia" but because I think it is interesting to read about different perspectives. I think it is fair to say that there are problems in Russia for critical journalists and problems with regard to freedom of speech.

    A lot of the things you pointed out had been mentioned in these articles, like the stereotypes with the alcohol, the helicopter crash and other details. It was called a "propaganda weapon" quite often though. Of course, there were those who praised the show as well.

    This was also mentioned but in a different way (source)

    "(...)Writing on Facebook, Dozhd journalist Ilya Shepelin argued that Pravda initially refused to publish Legasov’s memoirs, explaining that the chemist repeatedly called a correspondent he knew at the newspaper, to find out if there’d been a response. “There was no response,” Shepelin says. ”Meanwhile, Legasov’s findings were being dismissed at the Academy of Sciences. And Gorbachev decided not to award him, a true hero of Chernobyl, the Hero of Socialist Labor honorary title (even though he’s given the award to Legasov’s colleagues).” In the end, Shepelin says, Pravda published Legasov’s notes only two weeks after his suicide in 1988.
    In reality, as noted by the Twitter user “Russia_calls” (and supported by scans of the newspaper itself), Valery Legasov’s article, titled “From Today to Tomorrow,” was actually published in Pravda on October 5, 1987 six months before his death.

    This article, however, doesn’t say a word about the Chernobyl nuclear accident, and merely contains the chemist’s thoughts about the problems of the transition from an industrial to a technological society: “We are now getting an abundance of contrasting pictures of magnificent technical and organizational achievements and economic and organizational actions that are completely unacceptable and contrary to common sense.”


    I don't know what's true but there was a link to a scan of that newspaper article so you can read for yourself, it's in Russian:
    La Russie parle on Twitter
  22. antonkk

    antonkk Senior Member


    Keep in mind that 1988 Pravda was very much an official Communist Party paper and it never published anything without a "call from above" as we say here. Must be a signal from Gorbachev or at least other influential Politburo member like Yakovlev.

    As for today, sure the problems do exist and Medusa' own reporter Golyanov was arrested this year on trumped up drug charges which caused a nationwide outrage. 3 days later, after THREE (!) national papers released a unified covers with "I'm Golyanov" design in their support of the reporter Putin fired 2 police generals in Moscow and the charges against him were dropped. It was widely described as the huge victory for the freedom of speech here. Yet keep in mind that Medusa itself has it's own agenda, an extreme liberal anti-Kremlin one.

    The reason why the show was so much scrutinyzed in Russia is because it's a highly sensitive matter and russians grew extremely sensitive to any western portrayal of our history and society, give the huge percentage of downright horrible western movies and TV shows (latest season of Homeland is a sad example) about Russia and USSR. Chernobyl itself is still a wound that didn't heal with time and I find it very healthful that the show sparkled a new wave of interests in this tragedy.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2019
  23. fabre

    fabre Forum Resident

    It's not easy to interpret each piece of news and online newspapers like Meduza are helping people who don't speak Russian like myself but are interested in news. There is not much on German television. I did follow the case of Golyanov via Meduza and the German media. Of course, I did notice the liberal bias but it's not my only source of news. There is a very nice German website ( that is very helpful in understanding and interpreting news because there are many explanations and historical facts. Things you'd have to know to better understand, like you mentioning that "1988 Pravda was very much an official Communist Party paper (...)".
    I did get the notion that this disaster is still present for a lot of people and I did like to read all the stories that may have been there in the Ukraine and Russia for years but didn't make the news in the West and the stories that hadn't been told as well.
  24. antonkk

    antonkk Senior Member

    What I meant about Pravda is that during the perestroika and glasnost years there was already a clear distinction between conservative and progressive papers. In those years they were communist and "democratic". Pravda was not THE most conservative, but kept very much in the party line. The "democratic" papers were MK (which published my first interview in 1989), AIF (Arguments and Facts) of which I was a journalist later between 1994 and 1996 (at the time it was in the Guiness Book of Records as the publication with the biggest circulation in the world) and most progressive of all Moscow News which pushed the envelope of what's allowed to print almost weekly. These 3 all had increasingly independent editorial policy which outpaced Gorbachev's reformist vision by 1988 completely and very endorsing the most radical reformers like Yeltsin by the end of the decade. As I said stories about Chernobyl (as well as stalinist repressions and Afghanistan) were a goldmine. By the end of the decade there were no sacred cows left, even Lenin (the ultimate sacred cow of the USSR) was mercilessly fried medium rare.
    fabre likes this.
  25. musicarus

    musicarus Forum Resident

    Saratoga, NY
    Uncovering The Story Of Chernobyl
    "Journalist Adam Higginbotham has spent years investigating the causes of the accident and the dramatic efforts to contain the damage. He says design flaws, human hubris and Soviet secrecy all contributed to the disaster. His book is 'Midnight in Chernobyl.'"

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