|1999, 29 mins. (UCLA)
Director/Writer/Editor: Matthaeus Szumanski
Producers: Matthaeus Szumanski, Marc Lempert, producers
Director of Photography: Lisa Wiegand
Production Designer: Deeya Loram
Composer: Daniel Bernstein
Cast: David Bauman, Jason Cole, Bob Thompson, Michael Sheeley, Coleen Nicholas
|The building of the atomic bomb has been the inspiration for countless histories, memoirs, novels, and thrillers. Mattheus Szumanski's Jornada del Muerto is a tale of the high psychological cost paid by those who worked on the bomb. In the film, a scientist wracked by guilt over the destruction and death the bomb will cause imagines that he has found a poor family - father, sick mother, and young son - living in a shack near the test site's ground zero.
The inspiration for Jornada del Muerto was a summer Szumanski spent in Dallas working in a series of depressing jobs. While working as a file clerk for a real estate company, Szumanski says, he "started thinking a lot about Henry Fonda in The Grapes of Wrath." You can see the visual echoes between John Ford's film and the shack at ground zero in this film. "The idea came to me about people who worked for powerful organizations and struggled with their conscience."
Szumanski attributes the dreamier aspects of Jornada del Muerto to the influence of Andrei Tarkovsky's films. For Szumanski, a native of Denmark who has lived in the U.S. since he was eleven and went to film school at UCLA, film was a way of expressing his interests in both literature and visual art. As an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, Szumanski double-majored in studio art and comparative literature. Looking for a way to reconcile the split between the two, "film seemed a way to address it," he says.
Several times in Jornada del Muerto, the protagonist speaks to a colleague who is aware of his suffering but who has found his own way of dealing with the consequences of his work. The gulf between the approaches of these two characters is at the heart of Szumanski's movie, which, he says, is about how "we live in a powerful society and define our peace with it."
|The Manhattan Project, Wikipedia|
History of the atomic bomb, Third Millennium