There are a lot of half-empty boxes lying around in an apartment somewhere in Stockholm, Sweden. “This is for cleaning up before death,” the old man explains to the camera, recalling a local tradition called döstending: before you die, you should make sure you don’t leave too much junk behind.
That man is 95-year-old Hans Blix, and regardless of how he handles the boxes, he will leave a mark on the modern history of all mankind. The documentary Blix Not Bombs is a reminder that one day we will all have to clear our consciences.
The author of the film, Czech-Swedish director Greta Stocklassa, is a typical millennial. As she says herself, she belongs to the Pokemon and Harry Potter generation, whose carefree childhood in Western Europe began with the opening of borders and the “end of history”, combined with the optimism of a victorious West. “If the 20th century is the story of the struggle for freedom, what will be the story of the 21st century?” US President Bill Clinton asked celebrating Americans at the Lincoln Memorial a few minutes before the start of the year 2000. It was a rhetorical question that implied that joyful tomorrows awaited us.
Only a year later, it was clear that the story of the new century was not starting well at all. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 started a retaliatory campaign by the USA, which immediately led to two wars – in Afghanistan and in Iraq. This is where Hans Blix comes in. The UN commissioner who was supposed to investigate whether there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – as claimed by the United States administration.
If Blix found them, an invasion by American troops would undoubtedly receive considerable international support. If he resolutely ruled out the presence of weapons, the opposition to war would probably be so strong that it could not happen. Even back then, leading world politicians protested against the invasion of Iraq – from German Vice Chancellor Joschka Fischer to the then Russian ambassador to the UN Sergey Lavrov (sic!).
But Blix neither confirmed nor ruled out the presence of weapons. Then began the war that overthrew the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein, but as a result also deepened the destabilization of the region and planted the seeds of the Islamic State.
Who is to blame?
“We know what’s going on and we know what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.” This inscription is on a memorial plaque that Icelanders erected in 2019 to the Ok glacier, which is melting due to climate change.
The eulogy for the glacier is authored by Andri Snær Magnasson, a writer who travels the world (recently stopped at the documentary festival in Jihlava) and tries to teach people to overcome the limits of their own imagination, because of which we cannot (and do not want to) see the year 2100. Magnasson believes that at that time we will probably all be seen as villains who watched the disaster unfold, without hesitation handing the world to their children in a desolate state. People like Magnasson, who tried to highlight the problem, will be seen as “good slavers” at most. The slightly more aware ones who didn’t do enough anyway.
The film Blix Not Bombs shows what such a confrontation with one’s past can look like. “Do you have any remorse?” director Greta Stocklass asks the aging Blix. Their exchange of views is the strongest passage of the entire film.
Stocklassa is too smart and sensitive to judge an aging man. She is aware that the burden carried by the former Swedish diplomat and politician was unusually heavy. He had to face pressure from the media, public and top political leaders. Stocklassa treats Blix with respect and empathy, which she reciprocates in equal measure, although there is also misunderstanding here, as is the case between generations.
The most important thing is to observe Blix himself. Study the way he defends his own decisions. In front of us, the innocent viewers, it is being revealed how we ourselves will solve the bills that the future will present to us – and no one can avoid it.
When we clean up our own life’s junk, we will be able to say to ourselves: did we do everything we could?
Movie: Blix Not Bombs
Czech Republic / Germany / Sweden, 2023, 85 min
Screenplay: Greta Stocklassa
Played by: Hans Blix, in archive footage: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Saddam Hussein, Paul Wolfowitz, Kofi Annan, Tarik Aziz.