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Testament (1983)

April 12, 2012

Initially produced for TV, Testament was pushed into theatrical release, finding an audience willing to accept and be engaged by its decidedly low-key but astonishingly effective depiction of a small-town community affected by nuclear fallout in 80s America. Carol, a mother of two young children and devoted wife, says goodbye to her husband before a business trip and finds he’ll be only one of the first people she’ll never see again as nuclear war is soon declared, and communication outside of their small town is severed. Left to their own devices, the community becomes paranoid, desolate, and disturbed, but rather than quickly dissolve into dog-eat-dog war, the families instead become quietly distraught about the turn of events and exist merely to survive despite potential sickness and existential defeat.

Carried by Carol’s perspective as a mother soldiering on to protect her children as well as jilted lover who can only hold onto memories of her lost husband, the film doesn’t require much of an expansive narrative or view of the entire world in crisis to establish the harrowing danger of its situation. Survival against such a dehumanizing turn of events can only be accomplished by clinging onto what few elements keep them human as opposed to mere living beings. Wistful memories of a more distinctly touching time that’s passed and may never come again, intimate connections with the only loved ones left, and the few moments of true friendship that can exist are what give hope to such a demolished setting. In one of the most powerful moments in the film, Carol’s daughter, a young girl whose pubescence may never come into fruition, asks what it feels like to make love. Carol explains the importance of such a physically intimate act, both in memory of her lost love and in honor of her daughter’s womanhood stilted by the world’s events. Its only one moment of many that powerfully encapsulates what a generation should pass onto its children instead of the warfare and famine that ensues.

From → Old Favorite

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