IN CHRISTOPHER NOLAN'S film Oppenheimer, J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) gives a speech to his assembled Manhattan Project team in Los Alamos, N.M., shortly after the U.S. drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, in early August of 1945. In a small auditorium in this town built for the sole purpose of developing the bomb, Oppenheimer looks over a crowd of ecstatic scientists and their families, who greet him with cheers. Some of them are waving American flags.
As Oppenheimer starts praising the team and what their great achievement means for the U.S., we’re given a window into his internal torment: The background starts to blur and vibrate. We hear a child’s scream. Oppenheimer sees a woman’s face start to flake away. Looking down, a charred human body clings to his leg. Oppenheimer sweats. He swallows. He continues speaking, but it’s clear he’s dissociated from the speech he’s written.