Rear View

An image from the movie “The Wave” from 2015.

In “Being EcologicalTim Morton wonders about the prevalent mode of climate writing, which he calls “information dump”, “dumping massive platefuls of facts on to us” over and over again. Morton wonders, why we do that and finds the following analogy:

“Imagine that we are dreaming. What kind of dream would it be where the characters and plot vary, sometimes significantly, but the overall impact—where the dream leaves us, its basic color or tone or point of view (or what have you) —remains the same? There is definitely an analogy from the world of dreaming: these are the trauma dreams of sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” According to Sigmund Freud, Morton writes, “the PTSD sufferer is simply trying to install herself, through her dreams, at a point in time before the trauma happened. Why? Because there is some safety or security in being able to anticipate. Anticipatory fear is far less intense than the fear you experience when finding yourself, all of a sudden, in the middle of a trauma. If you think about it, traumas by definition are things that you find yourself in the middle of—you can’t sneak up on them from the side or from behind, and that’s why they’re traumatic. You just suddenly find yourself in a car crash, for instance. If you had been able to anticipate, you might have been able to swerve out of the way.”
“By analogy, then,” Morton concludes, “information dump mode is a way for us to try to install ourselves at a fictional point in time before global warming happened. We are trying to anticipate something inside which we already find ourselves.”

The Loen Rock Slides in Norway in 1905 and 1936

Just 31 years lie between two disasters of the same nature along the shores of a lake in Western Norway destroying twice the two lakeside villages.

Lake Lovatnet is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in Norway. In the first decade of the 1900s and again in the 1930s large fissures in the rock formation above the lake appeared and eventually rocks repeatedly fell into the lake. In 1905 a massive piece of the mountainside loosened and fell into the lake, producing waves of up to 40 meters in height that completely destroyed the two farm villages on the shore. “61 people lost their lives, half the population of Bødal and Nesdal together. Only ten were ever found.”

The villages were rebuilt, only a little bit higher up the shore. In 1936 daily rock falls happened again before eventually in September that year “one million cubic meters of rock fell down from 800 m height into Lake Lovatnet, pushing up the water and creating three waves; the highest a more than 74 meters high.” The two towns were once again completely destroyed.

Only a hundred kilometers away in a fjord called Tafjord the same thing happened in 1934: a massive piece of rock fell off the mountianside and sent a tsunami wave 17 meters high, reaching up to 300 meters inwards land, crushing houses and other buildings, moving large boats inwards land and killing 23 people.

This threat of rock slides resulting in tsunamis and floodings is common to this region of Norway. In 2015 director Roar Uthaug made a film based on the assumption that a similar event is expected to occur anytime in the future on the Åkerneset mountain, not far from Tarfjord. The movie entitled “The Wave” was so successful, two consecutive films were produced in 2018 and 2022.

The village of Bodal after the Loen Rock Slide. Click on the image for online source.
Image from the movie “The Wave”.
The fjord today. Click on the image for online source.
Image from the movie “The Wave”.

There is an excellent article about the Loen disasters by Christer Hoel online here. The quotes in my post are all from his text. I used another image from the movie here.

Sinking Hy-Brasil

This is an image from the famous sinking scene from the movie “Erik the Viking” from 1989. the movie plot is built on the medieval saga of the explorer Erik the Red. In one part of the saga Erik and his comrades arrive at the mystical island Hy-Brasil (or simply Brasil) west of Ireland. But the movie combines this Irish myth with two other popular myths: the sinking of Atlantis and the peaceful Minoan culture in the Mediterranean Sea. In a comic climax, the inhabitants of Brasil cheerfully and confidently drown in the sea.

The scene also obviously quotes the very similar scene from the 1961 movie “Atlantis – The Lost Continent”, that can be found here.

Here is the full video excerpt:

Atlantis: The Lost Continent (1961)

This movie is certainly not of the greatest to have come out of Hollywood. But made in 1961 it is one of the first movies about Atlantis and has been influential in popularizing the myth in the 20. Century. Made with a lot of stock footage from the movie company MGM, particularly from “Quo vadis” filmed ten years prior, the movie is not concerned with Atlantis as a sunken or submarine civilization, but with the downfall of a civilization and an oppressive political system and class. Really, the so called Lost Continent the story is set on could be any ancient empire or city.

The only remarkable feature of the movie I found to be the destruction sequence towards it’s very end. It’s filmed and edited in a very classic structure giving a good example of the Hollywood aesthetics of destruction. In a shot-and-reverse-shot-sequence the viewer is put in the position of the refugees in three boats and a safe distance from the desaster site. Here are the last 3 minutes of the movie (without sound):

And here is what director John Landis has to say about the movie:

Are floating cities a remedy for over-crowded coastal cities, land subsidence and rising sea level?

As this documentary from German TV from 2022 clearly shows, designing floating cities is one thing, wanting to live there is quite another. I guess instinctively we all prefer “stability over floating flexibility”, as director Kristin Siebert says, land over sea, grounded houses over floating houses. As desirable living by the sea might be, living on it, is a different matter.

The film does a fine job connecting and juxtaposing places and communities from the global south and global north, sharing similar fate and trying out similar solutions.

If floating cities are a real future option for communities challenged by climate change like Malé, the capital of the Maledives, we need to look at the socio-cultural and emotional aspects of what makes people feel at home. And that might be essentially the same in the Pacific as in Germany or Holland. Breaking with a culture of habitation of several thousand years is no easy task!

(thanks to Janina Kriszeo for the lead!)

Click on image for video link!

The gradual flood

The movie “Moonfall” from 2022 might be the worst movie ever done by Roland Emmerich, the movie director a Canadian journal aptly described as a “disaster-porn artist”. Emmerich has filmed – or rather digitally created – a whole collection of gigantic flood waves over the years from “The Day After Tomorrow” in 2004 to “2012” which was released in 2009. (see my notes here)

“Moonfall” also features a flood scene albeit a visually and atmospherically quite different one. Instead of the usual bird’s eye view shot of one gigantic, towering wave crashing against the city skyline, Emmerich here chooses to depict flooding as a slower, more gradual event. The flood event is taking place at nighttime and the scene has a very dark and shadowy quality. It’s an interesting aesthetic choice that doesn’t fail to create an intense and uncanny effect.

Like in most disaster movies, the perspective is from an elevated and securely removed position. Yet the director here tries to use a less spectacular and slightly more realistic approach to the pheonomenon.

There is however another scene later in the movie that returns to the old formula of the spectacularly crashing giant water wall.

A very big shark and an underwater habitat for the rich

The action movie Meg was released in 2018 and did surprisingly well at the box offices, considering that the shark-vs-man plot seems so outdated and overdone. Apparently it was two decades in the making and it feels a bit like it too watching it. Nevertheless, there is a sequel already in cinemas now testifying to it’s apparent appeal.

The first half of the film is essentially an underwater movie and thus I found it worth analyzing for this blog. The most striking aspect of this underwater scenario seemed to me the interior design of the habitat. As opposed to the usual submarine research base, this submarine station looks a lot more like the rescue bunkers currently advertised for billionaires across the globe or the luxury ocean resorts by South-African hotel mogul Sol Kerzner. Compare this image from the movie and the one from an ad for “Atlantis Hotel” in Sanya Bay, China, below:

This is clearly not coincidental: The second half of the movie plot is prominently set in this very Sanya Bay, currently a prime Chinese tourist destination. The movie is a US-American-Chinese co-production and there are clearly visible marketing intentions at play here. (I have written about the Atlantis hotel group elsewhere in this blog.)

There is also a scene in the movie indicating quite directly the connection between the taste of the mega-rich and this kind of submarine design: Towards the beginning of the movie the US-American Billionaire who finances the research station comes to visit. Entering a freight elevator to go down to the station, he expresses his disdain with the raggedy look of the elevator’s inside, calling it inappropriate for such an expensive research project. He is than relieved to find that the station itself looks much more to his taste.

Here are two more images, with the first one being clearly reminiscent of hotel resorts (with a little girl frolicking along) and the second of the type of sleek office design favored by global market players:

The interior design tells us that this project is actually catering to the taste and needs of the wealthy class more than to science. The topic of submarine refuge is never touched upon verbally in the movie but the images speak quite loudly too, I think. One can’t help notice the stark difference to earlier movies about (and the reality of) submarine research and thus the attractiveness of these fictional rooms.

As billionaires in the real world continue to publicly participate in person in all kinds of enterprises that were once reserved for scientists only, the work environments change accordingly. This of course makes the whole enterprise highly questionable in scientific terms. And I am afraid we are going to see more of this in the future – in film and real life. (See also my post on rich men’s rescue schemes here.)

Leaving Planet Terror

The movie by  Robert Rodriguez from 2007 is definitely not a climate narrative. Rather “Planet Terror“, a true retro flick, picks up a theme popular in the 1970s: anihilation through some mysterious chemical experiment gone havoc. Still I found the closing images worth sharing here, as they are not only quite impressive visually, but also because they combine narratives and traditions that are important for coastal climate adaptation.

Set in the US state of Texas the story eventually culminates in a biblical exodus of the last survivors from the barren land called USA to the promised land – called Mexico.

One of the central characters, a Latino in the US himself, gives the crucial advice: “You’ll be able to defend yourselves with the ocean in the back.”

This direction of the exodus is of course a critical comment and reversal of the image of the USA as a promised land for Mexican migrants. But the movie also references the ocean shore in particular as a mythical place of refuge. This might seem like an odd concept, considering that living by the sea actually is living with the proverbial “back against the wall”. But it resonates with the attraction coastal living holds in our culture. This has not always been the case – quite to the contrary. There is historical argument that coastal settlements at least in the Global South are a colonial heritage.

Rodriguez’ garden of Eden combines an ocean idyll with reference to ancient Inka civilisations and a military base, as can be seen in the image above. Obviously these things don’t really match. It’s a very ambivalent and complex collage, very dreamlike and thus inspiring us to think about the relationship between human civilization, destruction and violence and the natural environment as our habitat.

Conshelf or the Precontinent Project

Continental Shelf Station was an attempt at creating an environment in which people could live and work on the sea floor. Precontinent has been used to describe the set of projects to build an underwater “village” carried out by Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his team in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea between 1961 and 1963. The projects were named Precontinent I, Precontinent II and Precontinent III. Particularly Precontinent II off the Sudanese coast received wide public recognition and was documented in a movie with the somewhat sensationalist yet eerie title “World without sun“. For a good overview of the project see: or

thanks to Lajos Talamonti for the lead!

Underwater City 1969

The british movie “Captain Nemo and the underwater city” by James Hill picks up the themes and main character Captain Nemo from Jules Verne’s famous novel and the sucessfull 1954 Disney movie on the same material. While the earlier US-movie develops further the theme of the Atomic Age and it’s promises and dangers, the 1969 movie focuses on the idea of alternative, egalitarian communities and the then popular dome structures (gedesic dome) in architecture, the Montreal Biosphere built by Buckminster Fuller in 1967 being maybe the most influential and notable expample.

The underwater city in the 1969 movie
The Montreal Biosphere

Each movie thus reflects the topics of it’s time. While the 1954 version is stylistically much closer to a Fin de Siecle, 19. Century aesthetic, the 1969 movie is all 60’s glitz and extravaganza. Furthermore, in the 1969 movie life under water seems like a perfectly sane and technically achievable project, while in 1954 Captain Nemo still clings on to life on land.

This is a fundamental not only technical but also political shift: The idea of leaving the known world behind, going up in space or down into the sea or exiling yourself in an alternative community is now fully developed. The Apollo Program that brought humans into space ran from 1968 to 1972. And in 1963 Jacques Cousteau constructed an underwater station where he stayed with a team of scientists for 30 days. The civilized world had thus become one of several options.

While the screen shot above shows a view of a complete city, it remains the only moment in the movie when the underwater city is actually seen. The action almost exclusively takes place in the rooms of Captain Nemo and in a swimming pool leisure area that looks more like it was directly taken from Blake Edward’s Hollywood satire “The Party” from one year earlier than like anything resembling a city. No houses, no streets, no stores or any other features of an urban environment are depicted.

It seems that the city as a theme and topography of movies did not play a big role in the 1960’s, quite to the opposite of the era of pre-war cinema. (Take for example “Metropolis” from 1927 about another model city run by a benevolent autocrat. See my post here) . The same mixture of artificial wilderness, tropical allure and wild west or pirate movie elements, all covered by a huge dome, can also be found in today’s indoor water parks like Tropical Island near Berlin: