There Will Come Soft Rains (1984)

Animated short film, Uzbek Film.

Production Credits Synopsis Review

"There Will Come
Soft Rains"

The short story first appeared in Collier's, May 6 1950.

Its first book appearance was in The Martian Chronicles (1950).

It can also be found in The Vintage Bradbury (1965).

It can also be found in
The Stories of Ray Bradbury (1980).

 

Production Credits

Directed by Nazim Tulyakhodzayev

Synopsis

An egg rolls down a chute and is grabbed and crushed by a metal hand. The yolk and egg slide out into a hot pan. The pan conveyorbelts to a table which is already laid, with four other egg pans, cups and saucers and a coffee pot. A nozzle dispenses water into the pot and retracts. The table rises up into the centre of a larger table which is surrounded by body-shaped chairs. Through apparently broken windows at the back of the room, it is dark, and snow is falling.

As the clock chimes 0700, a large robot head descends and announces in a metallic voice that it is now on duty. It waggles the claws beneath its snout.

The robot head snakes to a door which opens with a beep. The robot announces that it is seven o'clock, time to get up. In the bedroom, body suits with face masks hang lifeless on the wall - and two beds contain ash outlines of two adults. The ash wrist of one of them is wearing a watch. The robot beeps and the beds tip to help the humans rise - but they are ash, and the ashes slide to the floor, pouring into and around their shoes. The watch slides down, and is buried in the ash.

The robot head snakes to another bedroom and tells the children to get ready for school. The floor is littered with abandoned toys, and the two beds in this room contain ash figures of a boy and a girl. They too pour into and around their shoes. The doll held by the girl slides down, and is buried in the ash.

An open window, with a curtain blowing in the breeze. A vase of flowers. An old-style phonograph playing an old record ("The moon was yellow, and the night was young..."). Next to the phonograph, a chair with a pile of ash. The robot head snakes in and greets Mrs McClellan. It asks how she slept, then drags the chair out of the room. As the phonograph record comes to an end, the window, curtain and vase disappear - they were actually images projected on a viewscreen, which now retracts to the ceiling to reveal a real window, which is smashed and looks out on falling snow.

The robot head drags the chair to the dining table, where other chairs slide in. The eggs pans are automatically slid towards the chairs. The robot head pours coffee and announces that today, in Allendale, California, it is 31st December 2026. Above the robot, what appears to be a power or control unit begins glowing and flashing red.

8am, and the robot announces it's time to be off to work. Pans and chairs retract and the centre of the table descends. Four body suits appear from the walls, and the front door slides up to reveal snow falling.

The robot head tells Mrs McClellan it is time for her morning prayer. Next to the calendar, a crucifix appears. The camera pulls back to show the emptiness of the house, and then slides outside to show the world: all around the house are the ruins of a city in darkness, as snow continues to fall. The world is destroyed; the snow is fallout.

Midnight, and a banquet is served in the dining room. The robot head announces "Happy New Year 2027!" A small music box snaps open and plays "The Star-Spangled Banner".

A bird squawks, and flies in through one of the broken windows. The robot challenges it for a password. Getting no intelligible response, it begins a security lockdown - all doors and windows are closed by steel shutters. The bird flies insanely around the room, unable to escape. Three pointed prongs appear in the robot's snout and it begins lunging at the bird. The bird lands on the crucifix, and the robot stabs at it, only to skewer the Christ figure, which falls to the floor. The robot continues to stab at the bird, always missing it, and causing more and more damage to the house. Finally, the robot penetrates the wall of the house. As it slowly retracts its head inside, its eyes clear. Beneath its eyes, like streaming tears, are bits of ruination from outside, including what appear to be body parts. The bird escapes through the hole the robot has made.

The robot half-blindedly swings about the room, which is now completely devastated. As it rises up, it sees the flashing red of the power/control unit and makes a lunge for it. There is a flaming red fireball, and the house it completely consumed.

After the fireball, there is a crater where the house once stood. The phonograph remains, rather battered, but when the bird lands on it, it begins playing, and the viewscreen window reactivates. Half-dazed, and surrounded by dense fallout snow, the bird tries to fly through the fake window, repeatedly bashing itself on the screen. As the camera pulls back, showing the bird to be the only living thing in this scene of destruction, a voice over reads Sara Teasdale's poem "There Will Come Soft Rains".

Trivial Differences

  • in the story, it is August 2026
  • in the film, it is New Year's Eve
  • in the story, the only living thing is a dog (which doesn't last long)
  • in the film, the only survivor is a bird
  • in the story, there are regiments of mechanical mice
  • in the film, parts of the house can move, but most of the work is done by a single robot
  • in the story, the family of the house has died outside, their shadows burned into walls by the atomic blast
  • in the film, the family of the house have died inside, turned to dust
  • in the story, the house slowly succumbs to ruin
  • in the film, the robot destroys the house

Other Productions

Review

This little known Russian-language short film is rarely seen in the west, but is an engaging (if not exactly warm) adaptation of Bradbury's story.

The director, Nazim Tulyakhodzayev, would later direct the live action feature Vel'd (1987), based on several Bradbury short stories.

The story shows some changes from Bradbury's story. Where Bradbury has regiments of robot mice and other mechanical servants, this house has one dominant servant, the robot head. Where Bradbury's story takes place in August 2026, the film takes place around New Year's Eve/Day 2026/2027. Where Bradbury's story has the house slowly dying, merely a delayed victim of the atomic war, the film has the house self-destruct.

Perhaps because of the robot's agressive appearance, the film feels much colder and more aloof than Bradbury's story. The film's portrayal of the dead inhabitants of the house is more graphic and less mysterious than in Bradbury's tale, where the first "sighting" we have of people is in the shadows the atomic blast has cast of them - and although shadows are arguably more euphemistic than ashes, Bradbury was basing this part of the story on genuine photographs and reports from the Hiroshima blast.

Setting the story around New Year's is a workable change to the story: it enables Tulyakhodzayev to incorporate the irony of the celebration (when there is no one there to celebrate) with the logic of snowfall (which, of course, turns out to be fallout). But this is another feature that gives the film a colder touch than Bradbury's story.

A striking addition that the film makes is the "morning prayer" section. In a way this seems an unlikely element from a Soviet bloc film, but Tulyakhodzayev is careful to establish that the story is set in the US. Tulyakhodzayev is giving us much more in the way of ironic ritual than Bradbury - where Bradbury focuses primarily on the daily ritual of breakfast, going to work, going to school, Tulyakhodzayev builds in annual ritual, the ritual of prayer, and standing for the national anthem. Remember that this film dates from the early 1980s; there is here a sense of cold war satire very different from what we find in Bradbury's more innocent tale. And if it seems that Christianity might be considered a survivor of armageddon, Tulyakhodzayev puts paid to that idea by having the robot skewer Christ.

Tulyakhodzayev has the house destroy itself. This seems an unnecessary plot complication, but it at least provides a sense of conflict which a narrative film usually needs. The way it happens provides what little sense of emotion the film possesses: when the robot head for the first and only time goes outside of the house, it comes back with tears in its eyes. In blind rage, it lunges at its own heart and destroys the house.

The lasting original image from the film is of the futility of the bird trying to escape through a window which is nothing more than a fantasy image. And this is where the film remains a bleak vision - despite the promise of Teasdale's lyrics, there seems little hope that this world could recover.

This short film, although deviating from Bradbury's story, is an accomplished piece of work with some fascinating animation techniques (not only cel animation, but cut-outs and what appears to be some 3D work involving the ashes). It shows quite clearly what can be done with Bradbury material in the short form.

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Page updated 17 August, 2005