Hannah Herzsprung, Hell


A movie for every day of the year – a good one



16 February



Kyoto Protocol comes into force, 2005

On this day in 2005, the Kyoto Protocol came into force. A United Nations treaty, its intention is to get industrialised countries to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, so as to stabilise the climate before it collapses. The theory runs that 150 years of heavy industrial activity has increased the amount of dangerous gases in the atmosphere and that only by restricting current and future emissions can humanity hope to arrest the trend in global mean temperature rise. The gases in question are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and sulphur hexafluoride, plus the two groups of gases, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons. The target is, broadly speaking, to get emissions down below the level of the base year 1990. The treaty was never ratified by the USA. In 2011, Canada, Japan and Russia announced they would take on no further Kyoto targets. In the case of Canada, committed to getting emission to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012, emissions were in fact 17% higher by 2009.




Hell (2011, dir: Tim Fehlbaum)

That’s “hell” as in the German word for bright, the light being the enemy in this apocalyptic drama set in a world cooking under an unforgiving sun. If the director’s name, Tim Fehlbaum, is unknown to you, then you probably will be more familiar with that of the executive producer. It’s Roland Emmerich. But this is a much more satisfying film than Emmerich’s eco-disaster movies, 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow, largely because it gives full reign to the sort of millennial angst that the Germans do so well, the twilight of the Gods and all that. Of course it’s “hell” in the other sense too, and in the opening scenes, set inside a car that has had all its windows blocked out against the piercing, baking light, we are given a brilliantly impressionistic portrait of life under a cloudless sky. For the most part, Hell is something like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road – society has collapsed, the highways are full of marauding gangs, altruism is scant. We quickly meet the car’s inhabitants – two women, one man. Then another man arrives and there’s a tussle to prove alpha male status, which the guy who looks most like Viggo Mortensen (it’s Stipe Erceg) obviously wins. And after that the film diverts onto another plot altogether, as the teenage female is abducted by a gang of scuzzes, who intend to rape her, eat her, or both. This digression breaks the spell brilliantly woven in the first section of the film and it takes a while to re-orient. But Hell is never less than accomplished, has an interesting non-Hollywood take on heroic individualism versus group activity and even, if you look at it hard enough, seems to be tackling the legacy of the Nazis even as it invokes the memory, here and there, of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.



Why Watch?


  • Fehlbaum’s feature debut
  • Markus Föderer’s brilliant cinematography
  • A brooding sci-fi thriller
  • Hannah Herzsprung’s badass heroine


© Steve Morrissey 2014



Hell – at Amazon





An Inconvenient Truth

Al Gore uses a scissor lift to make his point about a graph in An Inconvenient Truth


A movie for every day of the year – a good one



16 September



Signing of the Montreal Protocol, 1987


On this day in 1987, the Montreal Protocol in Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed. It was designed to eliminate from use substances, largely chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were deemed to be damaging the atmosphere, most particularly by destroying ozone, which absorbs large amounts of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. It is the most universally ratified treaty in world history, Kofi Annan has called it “perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date”. Under the terms of the protocol, the use of CFCs – a propellant in aerosols, a coolant in fridges – was first pegged to 150 per cent of its 1986 level. Then, from 1994 it was limited to 25 per cent of the 1986 level. Finally, from 1996, CFC use was banned entirely. The protocol has been successful at least partly (possibly majorly) because there was access to cheap, non-harming alternatives. Since the ban, the annual minimum recorded values of ozone, as surveyed at the Antarctic, continued to fall for a few years but since 2000 there has been a gradual though significant reversal. It has been estimated by some scientists that the damage will have been repaired by 2050. Though it must be said that the hydrofluorocarbons (HCFC) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) we now use instead of CFC come with their own problems – not least their effect on global warming.


An Inconvenient Truth (2006, dir: Davis Guggenheim)

Having “invented the internet”, another of Al Gore’s great sins against the coalition of autistic conservatives, free market liberals and global megacorporations – who have no goal in common but stick together for reasons they need to reconsider – is his espousal of the theory of global warming. An Inconvenient Truth lays it out unequivocally through what is little more than a Powerpoint presentation, with Gore kicking off with a joke – “Hello, I’m Al Gore. I used to be the next president of the United States” – and ending with a song. Well, not quite, but he end with a call to arms that’s quite upbeat. Quite a feat when you consider what has been served up betweentimes. Which is a depressing series of statistics about the need to get the planet’s carbon emissions under control, otherwise kapowie. Gore busts a few myths as he goes – the big one being that the scientific community isn’t agreed on the idea of manmade global warming. And director Davis Guggenheim does a rare thing – he lets the words, the figures, the charts speak for themselves when necessary, using the pretty, distracting images only as a palate cleanser between courses. Even if you don’t agree with the thesis, this is a powerful film whose arguments, if you’re serious about being a denier rather than a kneejerk fellow traveller of the coalition mentioned above, you need to refute.




Why Watch?


  • A university-style Climate 101 lecture that people paid to see
  • Old-fashioned stump-pounding rhetoric at its best
  • 66% of people who have seen it say it has “changed their minds” about climate change
  • Even if you don’t buy the conclusions, it delivers facts by the entertaining trailerload


© Steve Morrissey 2013



An Inconvenient Truth – at Amazon