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Fire in the Night relives the tragic events that occurred on the Piper Alpha rig on 6th July 1988. It was a catastrophe that killed 167 men and left only 61 survivors, each of whom had to fight for their lives to escape the huge, labyrinthine structure and the flames that were consuming it. The documentary features astonishing testimonies from men who found themselves in the midst of an inferno that destroyed a rig which was, at one time, the world's single largest oil producer. Speaking to survivors and rescuers, many of whom have never spoken on camera before, this film uses dramatic reconstructions to show the horror of this disaster and how the survivors escaped the burning rig. Written by
Respectful film that marks the 25th anniversary of a terrible incident
This documentary marks twenty-five years since the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster. On July 6th 1988 an explosion on the rig led to an intense fire that killed 167 men. It remains the worst ever offshore oil disaster. Fire in the Night takes a very personal approach in describing the events of that night. What it does not do is look at how the disaster happened, nor does it detail the aftermath, including accusations of criminal negligence directed at Occidental. Instead it focuses on events of the night through the memories of several survivors and a rescuer. This approach has benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand, the narrative of the disaster would have been far stronger if we were given more detail of events leading up to the explosion. Much of the audience will not know how things went so drastically wrong so it would have been educational for the film to document this. On the other hand, the survivor's stories are essentially the real first hand evidence of what happened that night. All the men interviewed have different experiences of how they escaped the inferno and their stories give the film its emotional core. Every man is still clearly pained when having to go through the recollection process. It's sometimes the less obvious details that stick with you such as the description of the constant intense noise or the man that had to dive deeper and deeper into the freezing waters of the North Sea to avoid being fried alive on the surface.
There is a fair amount of news footage from the night which gives an indication of the hugeness of the disaster. But there is also dramatic recreations used to give a visual representation of the more personal hells experienced by the men. These moments are handled with considerable care and never fall over the fine line into triteness. Usually they are slightly more abstract and even dream-like with men plunging into deep water and then rising onto a surface with a backdrop of a sheet of fire. The dramatized material enhances the material and never trivialises it. At the screening I attended some of the survivors who appear here were also present. At the end one of them stood up and said that it was the most faithful and respectful films about Piper Alpha he had seen and at the end of the day no one can argue with this.
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