The political awakening of my teenage years coincided with growing pushback against Nuclear Weapons in Britain. Greenham Common, CND, Fred and Hilda Bloggs in When the Wind Blows, that horrific documentary about radiation sickness: these were all vivid, naked fears, and Nuclear Winter was an oft-imagined dread.
Although it doesn’t ever express what’s actually happened, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, nevertheless reveals a scarily familiar landscape of post-apocalyptic horror. Scraggy Viggo and his boy child are struggling across country, away from vicious cold and yet more vicious humans. Everything has collapsed; society, agriculture, humanity. It’s dystopian, tragic and (I felt) hopeless – in spite of the small act of kindness in the closing scenes. I’m not sure, really, what value such a movie brings – well made and faithful adaptation though it is.
Anyway: so where do you go when you want to film society’s total disintegration? Pittsburgh, apparently (ah, the mysteries of Pittsburgh….) “It’s a beautiful place in fall with the colors changing, but in winter, it can be very bleak. There are city blocks that are abandoned. The woods can be brutal,” said Director John Hillcoat of his choice of location. Filmmakers also shot scenes in parts of New Orleans that had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and on Mount St. Helens in Washington, which of course was flattened and burned by the deadliest and most catastrophic volcanic eruption yet on American soil. The Road itself is the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike – 13 kilometres of bypassed roadway.