Ray Bradbury’s short story “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains” was published in 1950 – the early years of the Cold War, when the memories of Nagasaki and Hiroshima were fresh in people’s minds. As relations between the United States and the Soviet Union soured, fears of nuclear obliteration mounted and became the zeitgeist of the era, finding its way into the creative endeavors of artists and writers.
Bradbury’s story follows the daily routine of a fully-automated household somewhere in the United States. Machines and robots take care of the needs of an upper-middle-class family: breakfast is served, dishes are cleaned, entertainment is provided. But the human inhabitants of this technocratic utopia appear to be missing. This artificial existence eventually ends when the house burns to the ground.
The only clues to what has transpired are the silhouettes burned into the wall of the house, the “radioactive glow” emitted by the surrounding ruined city, and the poem recited by one of the robots. The twelve-line piece “There Will Come Soft Rains” by Sara Teasdale was published in 1920 in the aftermath of World War I and imagines nature reclaiming the ravaged battlefield.
The animated film, directed by Nazim Tulyakhodzhaev, closely follows the narrative of Bradbury’s story, giving it a more poetic and symbolic twist. It was released in 1984, when the relationship between the superpowers had sharply deteriorated following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the implementation of Ronald Reagan’s hardline anti-communist strategy. The humanist message endures: the world remains unsafe while unabridged political power, war-mongering, and unrestricted personal ambitions still exist.