While flying over Tokyo, an American military bomber drops a cluster of high-explosive cylinders. The explosives vanish into thin air after a few beats. When we look down, we observe a series of small orange explosions.
“Apocalypse ’45,” a gripping documentary on World War II’s last months, features a number of shocking visuals. Documentary video from war correspondents is intercut with first-person tales from a diverse group of veterans in this compelling film (now available on Discovery+). One of the main goals of this film is to show us how people deal with the psychological effects of war and to immerse us in its horrors.
Restored film reels that had lain in the National Archives for decades have been used to create these frightening visuals. To avoid becoming a hostage, a Japanese woman jumps from a cliff in the Mariana Islands. A flamethrower being fired into a cave by soldiers on the island of Iwo Jima. Kamikaze pilots attack ships near Okinawa with their planes. An unnerving verisimilitude is achieved by director Erik Nelson’s use of actual wartime sound effects.
However, the veterans’ testimonies, which are interspersed with voice over, are the film’s most insightful element. Nelson doesn’t make a distinction between the males, instead using their deep, breathy voices as a sound tapestry. Nelson They cannot be singled out for praise or condemnation because they do not have faces or names. People look to myths, such as those about war’s inevitability, Japanese conformity, or American power—to find a rationale for their actions when they don’t exist.
The documentary lacks the ability to accurately portray non-American experiences. Only one Japanese interviewee, a Hiroshima survivor, is used by Nelson. The documentary begins with his voice, and he returns later to recount the atomic bombing. The survivor’s point of view is crucial, but when it is presented on its own, it comes out as tacked on. “Apocalypse ’45” understands that war is a hellish experience for everyone, including the protagonists. But it’s hard to avoid the impression that the film’s view of history is dominated by the United States.
The End of the World in ’45
Unrated. The movie lasts 1 hour and 43 minutes. See it on Discovery+.