Today looking out over the empty streets of my hometown, Loja, Ecuador, I had a flashback of sorts to a film I saw as a young teenager named On The Beach.
On the Beach is a 1959 American post-apocalyptic science fiction drama film from United Artists, produced and directed by Stanley Kramer, that stars Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, and Anthony Perkins. This black-and-white film is based on Nevil Shute’s 1957 novel of the same name depicting the aftermath of a nuclear war. Unlike in the novel, no one is assigned blame for starting the war; the film hints that global annihilation may have arisen from an accident or misjudgment.
The current situation with covid-19 will not result in the elimination of the human race at least not this time around, but it was eerie how the empty street scenes of the movie are so much like the empty streets of Loja and other cities around the world today. The world population was eliminated by invisible nuclear fallout and not direct bombings. Many cities were still completely in tack, just without life.
World War III fortunately never happened but we came very close during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962. The world was a button away from disaster.
A recent film produced in 2011 and more associated with our world wide covid-19 pandemic today is Contagion.
Contagion is a 2011 American action thriller film directed by Steven Soderbergh. Its ensemble cast includes Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kate Winslet. The plot concerns the spread of a virus transmitted by fomites, attempts by medical researchers and public health officials to identify and contain the disease, the loss of social order in a pandemic, and finally the introduction of a vaccine to halt its spread. To follow several interacting plot lines, the film makes use of the multi-narrative “hyperlink cinema” style, popularized in several of Soderbergh’s films.
The eeriness of this film is that the virus was spread by a bat to a pig to the chef cutting up the pig to another human via a handshake with the chef who then took the virus from China to the US. It provides and excellent narrative of the processes on tracking the virus from patient zero and the steps taken by the CDC to contain the outbreak and find a vaccine. The film also pictures the social breakdown of society as services are halted and supplies run low, (fortunately this social breakdown has not happened) and the ruthlessness of those who use misfortune for profit (unfortunately this has).
All of Educador’s 506 cases developed in less than three weeks time and are the direct and exponential result of one person, the first case in Ecuador, returning from Spain on February 29, 2020. The virus uses people as hosts in the same manner fleas used rats as hosts during the Black plague. People and rats are both mobile and both social animals. The fleas moved into the cities on rats who were fleeing the fields as a result of climate change in fourteenth century Europe and Asia.
Does any of this begin to sound familiar? As I reminisce on these two films while standing on my balcony in government ordered isolation I wonder back to an essay by Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying, which I read during college, he says:
Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.
Umm, I wonder…