7. Correspondence to true events
The Chernobyl mini-series consists of 5 episodes that last one hour each. The plot tells us about an accident that turned out to be one of the most horrible ecological catastrophes in our history. It’s still unknown what exactly happened at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant on April 26, 1986. The chronology of events was restored, but no one can tell what actually happened during that night.
The creators of the series spent a lot of time studying the materials. They mostly focus on people’s destinies, to show the way the catastrophe has influenced different people. Real prototypes of people, called liquidators, who took part in having to deal with the consequences of the disaster were also used.
In the series, there are some inaccuracies, but the whole situation and its impact on the surrounding reality is depicted really well. The creators managed to avoid stereotypes about the Soviet Union. There are only a few exaggerated moments, like the scenes with huge amounts of alcohol. But these flaws don’t stop you from plunging into the reality of that world.
6. The directors’ hard work
Johan Renck is a really experienced film series director. He used to work on projects like Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and Vikings. As for Chernobyl, he was mostly focused on the realistic set. He wanted people to feel that the atmosphere was real.
Screenwriter Craig Mazin spent a lot of time collecting information. He started studying the Chernobyl catastrophe in 2014, using documentary chronicles, books about eyewitness memories, and government reports. Mazin spoke to nuclear scientists to find out how a nuclear reactor works and consulted former Soviet citizens to get a feel the culture of the 80s there.
The creators have also read a lot of stories told by the eyewitnesses to make the series look more realistic and “humane.” For example, thanks to Svetlana Alexievich’s book Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future, the storyline of the commander of a fire brigade, Vasiliy Ignatenko, and his wife Liudmila appears in the series.
5. The cast
As for the cast, Mazin didn’t have to spend a lot of time trying to find actors. He found himself in a situation that every screenwriter dreams about: all the actors he considered to be suitable for the series accepted his offer without hesitation.
- Jared Harris, who took part in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, plays Valery Legasov, a prominent Soviet nuclear physicist. Being the chief of the commission investigating the Chernobyl disaster, he was the first one to realize how horrible the catastrophe was.
- Stellan Skarsgard plays Boris Shcherbina, a vice-chairman of the Council of Ministers in USSR. He also took part in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
- Emily Watson, famous for her roles in The Theory of Everything and Equilibrium, plays Ulyana Khomyuk. This is the only fictional character in the series and it was used to show the image of all the female physicists who investigated the disaster.
- Mikhail Gorbachev, the General Secretary of the governing Communist Party, is played by David Dencik. Together with Skarsgard, he played in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
4. The music
Musical accompaniment is one of the reasons people believe what’s going on on the screen. To createunique music, composer Hildur Gudnadottir went to the abandoned Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant. There, she recorded unique noises and sounds that can be heard in different parts of the plant.
Upon her return to the studio, the crew listened to these recordings for hours, trying to extract the most suitable sounds. Most of the soundtrack parts were created with the help of the collected recordings.
3. Authentic surroundings
The Red Forest after a radioactive dust emission
According to Craig Mazin, they were obsessed with the idea of creating a realistic atmosphere and wanted to show the real world during that time. Most of the scenes were shot in Lithuania. The Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, which was closed 10 years ago, is almost 100% equal to the plant, which was located in Chernobyl. The crew managed to find an area near Vilnius that resembles the neighborhood in Pripyat.
Some scenes were shot in the Ukraine. The creators worked together with local experts in order to be extremely accurate. The Kiev city center was closed during the shooting. It was really important to not let any modern details like cars or ordinary people appear in the scenes.
There are scenes that were shot in Pripyat. The monologue in the final scene is broadcasted against the background of the modern city, showing the way it looks now.
2. Attention to detail
Plunging into the authentic atmosphere impresses the audience from the first scene. While watching the series, a person born in the Soviet Union would probably say, “Oh, we had the same things.” Mass production, common during that time, turned out to be really helpful for the creators, and they used this fact to their advantage.
Actors speak English with their natural accents. But everything broadcasted on radio or TV, all emergency phone calls or loudspeaker announcements are in Russian.
On the HBO YouTube channel, there are podcasts where the creators tell us about the process of filming of each episode. There are 5 episodes in total. The directors and producers talk about how much impact the story had on them, how they managed to achieve such a high level of accuracy, why they decided to begin the series with the explosion, and about other important things.
1. Growing interest in the tragedy
The series impressed both critics and ordinary people. It’s not a classic horror movie, but the depicted events really give you the shivers and make your blood run cold. Each episode is 100% captivating and breathtaking.
For the last month, the interest in Chernobyl has skyrocketed. People from all around the world are trying to find more and more information concerning the disaster. They’re also reading books, articles, eyewitness stories, and watching video reviews and documentary chronicles to understand what happened there.
Just like any other work of art, the Chernobyl series contains certain assumptions and discrepancies. But the main idea is depicted very well. You won’t be able to shake the feeling that you’re involved in what’s happening, and this involvement is mixed with bewilderment and compassion, which you experience from the first few minutes. You’ll have an urge to understand how this happened and to not let it happen ever again.