Last year I discovered Danny Cooke’s amazing short film Postcards From Pripyat, Chernobyl and instantly fell in love with this 3 minute wonder which offers us a drone’s-eye-view of the city of Pripyat, once home to workers from the nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The city has been abandoned for almost 30 years, a place untouched by humans since the 1986 disaster. Then a few days ago I watched Ryan Deboodt’s Hang Son Doong named after the Sơn Đoòng Cave in Vietnam, the world’s largest known cave. Where Postcards captures a landscape reclaimed by nature Hang Son Doong instead captures a landscape still relatively untouched by mankind, a landscape that was only discovered in 1991 and exploration only began six years ago.
Like Postcards, Hang Son Doong was filmed using a drone, which offers us not only a completely different view of a cave so big that it could fit an entire city street into one of its numerous caverns, but also a different perspective when comparing one of nature’s biggest wonders to mankind. Where most of the footage that documents a spectacle as mind boggling as the Sơn Đoòng Cave are taken at ground level, looking up in awe and wonder, Hang Son Doong surveys the cave from above, showing the sheer size of it, looking down on everything else as small and insignificant. In the scenes that do include people exploring the cave, there are times when this view from above makes the landscape look like a model from a stop-motion film set, with little figures placed around it, offering a scale, a point of reference to help us better understand what the title “World’s Biggest Cave” actually looks like.
Both films show us the insignificance of mankind, of the presence of people, but at opposite ends of the scale: before and after human beings. Postcards offers a view of what the Earth might look like in 30 years time if mankind was wiped off the face of the Earth tomorrow. It shows how nature could and would take over once again, as it has in some of the harshest conditions known to man, the aftermath of one of the worst nuclear disasters ever. While Hang Son Doong is important to demonstrate how nature continues without human impact or contact, how it just goes on as it always has, and in a time when the environment and climate change are frequent debate topics reminds us just how important protection and preservation is in the modern day.
If pressed I’d have to give my vote to Postcards due to my long standing fascination with Pripyat and Chernobyl, and in a time when dystopian novels and films are in vogue, it offers a view of what a dystopian Earth may look like, whilst at the same time serving as a time capsule of the Soviet Union. But, whatever your opinions on natural wonders or abandoned cities, it is definitely worth taking 12 minutes out of your day to watch both, just to witness to opposite extremes from a completely new angle.
Featured Image: John Spies // Barcroft Media