What will the inhabitants of Earth be like over the next 100,000 years? Will they even be human, or some other civilization of animal or alien being? These questions are at the heart of Into Eternity, a beautiful and extremely fascinating Danish documentary about ONKALO, the ambitious nuclear waste repository near Olkiluoto, Finland, which will bury thousands of tons of spent uranium from a local power plant in an extensive underground tunnel system.
Directed by conceptual artist/filmmaker Michael Madsen (no, not the "Mr. Blonde" one) and co-written by Jesper Bergman, the film plays like science fiction, but it's alarmingly contemporary. For us, anyways, but Into Eternity is structured as if it's not intended for a modern audience. It's a relic-to-be. In an eerie narration, Madsen addresses future viewers, whether or not they will understand his English-spoken warnings and questions, urging them not to curiously venture into the tunnels as if it were an archaeological find, like the Egyptian pyramids.
Yet in asking the hypothetical later audience about what has happened to the human race and the Earth itself, wondering if another ice age has come, if the world is less populated, etc., the film really directs such contemplation at the present -- both at those of us in the audience and the scientists and planners interviewed onscreen. Among the many issues of safety, the most interesting regards the communication of ONKALO's existence to later generations and societies. Will markers with modern words or currently understood symbols and imagery be useful to a people or creatures with unimaginably different or evolved language? Could an oral tradition of continually passed-on and presumably modified warnings be trusted?