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“Into Eternity,” Reviewed: Gazing Into the Future of Nuclear Waste

“Into Eternity,” Reviewed: Gazing Into the Future of Nuclear Waste (photo)

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In a remote area in western Finland, a tunnel that ultimately will be three miles long and 1,600 feet deep is being drilled into the bedrock. The site is called Onkalo, “hiding place,” and when it’s completed, sometime in 2100, it will serve as a permanent resting place for the country’s radioactive waste, a tomb the government plans to seal and leave undisturbed for at least 100,000 years.

The remarkable documentary “Into Eternity,” directed by Danish conceptual artist/filmmaker Michael Madsen (who should start a club with “Hunger”‘s Steve McQueen and “Reel Injun”‘s Neil Diamond), isn’t concerned with nuclear power or the politics the surround it. What’s captured Madsen’s imagination is the idea of creating something that’s intended to last far beyond the existing span of human civilization. As remote as the pyramids are to us now, they’re only a few thousand years old, nothing compared to the incomprehensible lengths of time being considered by Onkalo’s creators. Where will humanity be then, and what will it be like? What wars, what natural disasters will have taken place?

The shadow of apocalypse lies over “Into Eternity,” which glides its camera through the incomplete depths of Onkalo and the sterile halls of current above-ground nuclear waste storage centers and turns them into alien landscapes, and which stymies the scientists and politicians it consults with philosophical questions about their plans for the distant future. After all its careful planning, Finland’s greatest fear for Onkalo isn’t born of scientific failure, but the failure of civilization. Is it better to forget the location of something you don’t want found, or to presume we’ll be stable and constant enough to pass a warning about what’s buried there across the eons? That human curiosity has so far proven more powerful than any “stay away” message by earlier societies makes the dilemma a durable one.

04242010_intoeternity2.jpgMadsen provides the narration for the film, appearing sometimes to speak to the camera for monologues that last the length of a match, briefly illuminating the underground darkness. His skeleton of a conceit, that the film will also serve as an artifact for some future group of people who’ve come across it while excavating Onkalo, leads to a few so-solemn-they’re-silly pronouncements, but the immensity of the idea at the heart of the investigation can’t be denied. Can we trust our own future? Or is the very concept of trafficking in something with such far-reaching consequences a kind of hubris?

Late in “Into Eternity,” someone mentions that their favorite joke, when they started digging Onkalo, that they expected to uncover a copper canister with a warning about what lies beneath, which is what they planned to leave themselves when Onkalo was complete. It’s a dark quip that, like the film as a whole, worms its way into your brain. You need go back only a few centuries for human history to become murky and mysterious. We may be better at keeping records now, but our ability to efface whole societies from the face of the earth has also significantly improved. The quest for any type of permanence seems, under the constant grinding away of time, terribly presumptuous.

“Into Eternity” opens in New York on February 2nd.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…