Germany - Under Control (HD) - 97/52 min 00'' sec (11 July 2012)

A haunting journey into the heart of the nuclear conundrum


Look over the walls of the insular world of nuclear power plants and witness one of humanity’s most compelling struggles. Through startlingly beautiful cinematography this surreal documentary captures the true essence of the technology many see as the only viable energy option for our future. Pushing beyond the public debates, it explores an unpredictable and untameable beast, which demands more from mankind than we can possibly hope to give.

A nuclear plant worker steps into a sleek screening booth: "Good day. If you have objects with you please place them in the analysis unit and position hands and feet for a frontal reading", comes the robotic instruction. After a brief pause the machine concludes; "No contamination found." Travelling through the secretive inner workings of a nuclear power plant, we journey into a deeply alien world, strange in every way but also routine and humdrum to those who populate it.

"A human being can of course mess up. Push the wrong button, turn the wrong control". Yet when it comes to atomic power, such fallibility can be lethal and the machine is engineered to be autonomous. Incredible images of the pulsating blue glow surrounding the fuel rods in the reactor core gives an eerie impression of both the beauty and potential threat of this source of energy, and its immense radioactive power.

"There are nuclear substances that must be kept out of the biosphere for an unfathomable amount of time", a scientist explains. It is just one of the many problems facing the nuclear industry: disposing of its toxic waste. Deep beneath the earth's surface in a vast salt cave incongruous yellow barrels pile up in gloomy caverns. Meanwhile, the unstable cave ceilings quietly threaten to collapse and unleash disaster. It is just one of the many issues that has turned German public opinion against atomic energy.

Ghost-like abandoned plants now blot the German landscape. "Nine billion Marks: that is what this bit of fun cost", a disgruntled former plant caretaker spits, as he reveals a fully functioning 'fast breeder' plant, left to rust. The sheer scale of the waste comes to light in every detail; "every single cable was painted with three layers of fireproof paint. 100 painters spent a year doing that work". In a surreal twist of fate, the site now plays host to a stark and weathered theme park: a bizarre monument to a vision of a glorious atomic future that has reached a futile end.

"Those who dedicated their lives to developing this technology didn't set out to harm anyone", the director of a nuclear assessment company quietly reminds us. Yet the feeling that mankind just isn't quite ready to properly harness this extraordinary power source and control its side effects permeates every scene of this haunting doc. With rarely captured views of the deep internal organs of nuclear plants, it offers a thought-provoking insight to one of the most hotly debated subjects of our age.


Laurel Official Selection, Berlinale, 2011

Credo Film

Making the film
Making the Film
What I had in mind was a film that opens up a new view on the subject of nuclear power – away from the reflexes mediated by media and ideology. I was less interested in the issue of nuclear energy in terms of individual aspects, but much more in a perspective that opens up a panorama of the nuclear establishment.

The Producers
Making the Film
Volker Sattel, born 1970 in Speyer am Rhein, studied direction and cinematography at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg in the
documentary department. Since then he realized projects as DOP
and director, especially in the documentary genre and the field of experimental feature film in cooperation with Mario Mentrup. Since 1999 he worked as a private lecturer at the KHM Köln and the HFF “Konrad Wolf”, Potsdam. In 2008 he was awarded the Gerd Ruge Projektstipendium for “Under Control”.
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