HBO’s Chernobyl is an indelible look into one of the world’s most disastrous and captivating events, but what really makes the show stand out among its contemporaries?
In the latest video from YouTube content creator Thomas Flight, he delves into the use of perspective in Chernobyl and how it elevates the show. In Flight’s words, “perspective is the vantage point from which the audience experiences the scene emotionally and dramatically,” and is key to the limited series’ power.
In terms of Chernobyl, it could have been easy for the creators, cinematographers and directors of the show to objectively show the explosion, aftermath and long-lasting results of the nuclear disaster; however, the production of the show disregards this in favor of a more subjective tone and perspective.
In terms of subjectivity, the show doesn’t flat-out display what is happening right then and there. By skewing each scene’s perspective onto individual characters, the show decides to show surprise and build a sense of sudden doom with the viewers—almost as if they’re experiencing the event for the first time themselves. In simpler terms, Chernobyl is a show about people dealing with an unforeseeable crisis, rather than a show centered on a known nuclear disaster.
Flight explains how the show is reactionary. Audiences view the story through the subjective eyes of multiple characters, rather than an omniscient outside perspective. Opening with Valery Legasov’s (Jared Harris) suicide, the viewers know that past events drove him to that, which leaves audiences wondering just how horrible the experiences and events actually were.
Furthermore, Flight explains how the show uses cinematography to further the skewed perspective. For example, viewers see the explosion from a shot from an apartment in a nearby town; instead of wide shots of disarray as the nuclear plant workers walk through the plant, close-up shots display the pure terror and level of worry written in their faces. The nurse at the hospital knows something bad is happening due to the framed shot of ambulance after ambulance pulling up outside the window, but she doesn’t know the extent of the horror inside those ambulances.
On the whole, Flight not only boils down the cinematic and practically perfect use of perspective in Chernobyl, but he also makes a case for why it’s such a damn compelling show to watch. Currently nominated for 17 Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie, it will be no surprise if Chernobyl walks away with more than a couple of statues.
Deep dive into Chernobyl’s use of perspective with Flight’s video below.