Finally released on Blu-ray, the warning given in the visceral 1984 apocalyptic film “Threads” feels all the more life-threatening in the midst of our political climate after Trump negotiated the denuclearization of North Korea with the DPRK’s leader, Kim Jong Un. The film holds back no punches as it spends the first half hour depicting the normal daily life of working-class Sheffield, England. Warnings of escalating tensions between the United States and USSR over Iran are reported through the television sets and radios everyone seems to be plugged in to, but it is easy for me to ignore the over-whelming presence of danger in favor of the true drama of the film’s premise: the marriage of young couple Jimmy (Reese Dinsdale) and Ruth (Karen Meagher), who is pregnant. However, by the time the conflict has gone nuclear Sheffield has already emptied its grocery stores in an attempt to prepare for the worst, as it is a NATO center that would be a prime target for the Warsaw Pact if war ensues.
And it does, as the city is bombed. It is horrifying to see how little time passes between when we first learn of the conflict and when the absolute worst case scenario occurs. I, in spite of myself, was hoping the entire time that the escalations of the conflict between the two world superpowers would either resolve itself or spare outside nations. It was incredibly cruel and nihilistic to see how despite the citizens’ protests as the country comes closer to war, they are ultimately not listened to by the actual countries fighting. The film does an excellent job of painting the world of Sheffield by having a plot with a wide scope, focusing on Jimmy and Ruth but showing preparations of their families and emergency coordinators of the local government. It is so, so sad to see to how little regard the superpowers end up having for poor Britain despite Sheffield’s efforts to make their voice heard. It made me feel that the world would be a more peaceful place if only we would engage those we disagree with more often.
The vivid depiction of the impact a nuclear bombing would have on a city made my heart drop and my stomach hurt. It is evil, Hell on Earth, and I believe no mere human dispute could ever merit such extreme measures. It was eye-opening to see the fears of people around the world during the Cold War brought to life. As I was born after the conflict, I will never know what it was like to live wondering if my own powerhouse country would disregard any shred of humanity to use such weapons. But I worry that my generation is getting a taste of that fear with Trump’s taunts of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last August, promising “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if North Korea does not comply with the United States. I am not saying that everyone should watch “Threads”, a piece of well-made fiction, in order to inform their real-life decisions. However, I believe that a movie like “Threads” serves as a testament of the fears of a time that can allow future generations to understand better, synthesizing parts of history that define our country’s master narrative. Trump, being an adult by the time this film came out, was surely aware of the Cold War happening. I think it is impossible that he would want to invite so much destruction of humans lives to provoke a hostile nation threatening nuclear missiles. But based on his belligerent language, I bet he doubts such a threat could one day be serious. “Threads” is a strong example of how art plays an important role in forming public memory in the hopes of learning from it.