Despite emerging as one of the biggest box office successes of this year, earning almost $1 billion worldwide, Christopher Nolan’s biographical thriller Oppenheimer faced criticism from some quarters over a creative decision. Some called Nolan out for allegedly whitewashing J Robert Oppenheimer, who is considered the father of the atomic bomb which was used against Japan, leading to the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
Even Oscar-winning filmmaker Spike Lee, during an interview with the Washington Post, pointed out that Nolan should have included “some more minutes about what happened to the Japanese people.” “People got vaporized. Many years later, people are radioactive. It’s not like he didn’t have power. He tells studios what to do. I would have loved to have the end of the film maybe show what it did, dropping those two nuclear bombs on Japan,” he said while stating that it was a “great film”.
Responding to these criticisms, Nolan, during a recent chat with Variety, said that the omission was intentional, noting: “Oppenheimer was half a world away when the bombs were dropped. He learned about their detonation on the radio.”
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“The film presents Oppenheimer’s experience subjectively. It was always my intention to rigidly stick to that. Oppenheimer heard about the bombing at the same time that the rest of the world did. I wanted to show somebody who is starting to gain a clearer picture of the unintended consequences of his actions. It was as much about what I don’t show as what I show,” he observed.
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“My research and my engagement with this story tell me that anyone claiming a simple answer is in denial of a lot of the facts. Obviously, it would be much better for the world if it hadn’t happened. But so much of the attitude toward the bombing depends on the situation of the individual answering the question. When you speak to people whose relatives were fighting in the Pacific, you get one answer. When you look at the devastating impact in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you get another,” he mentioned.
Nolan also stated that he and the movie were more interested in provoking discussion than providing resolution. “The film is an honest attempt to express my feelings about it,” he added. The film was based on the 2005 biography American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J Sherwin.
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