Cillian Murphy in a desolate and empty London in a scene from the film 28 Days Later.
During the first weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, people were drawn to the 2011 film Contagion about a deadly virus that is spreading across the world.
In a time of uncertainty, people seemed to turn to fictionalized versions of pandemics as a strange source of solace.
Contagion is one of many pandemic films and TV shows that will feature in a free talk on Wednesday evening at the Christchurch Art Gallery by scholar and performer Erin Harrington.
The speech, called Pandemic screeningwill host a wide range of movies and TV shows, The Andromeda Strain for The seventh seal and station eleven for night of the living dead.
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Harrington is a lecturer at the University of Canterbury and a performer in comedy shows like nerd diploma and feminist sons. She said movies like Contagion, twelve monkeys and 28 days later predicted some aspects of an actual pandemic, but veered too far towards the apocalyptic.
“In these movies, the pandemics are this big, terrible cataclysm, and then we end up in the disaster movie,” she said.
“In reality, the pandemic is long and slow and a real chore. It’s work that gets people’s heads confused.
Harrington said the TV show station elevenwhich is currently airing on Neon, was more insightful about post-pandemic life.
The show, which began production before the pandemic and came out late last year, is about a community forming in the wake of a deadly global disease.
“It’s exceptional,” she said. “We see that what people need is connection, art and history. He asks: what do we need to go beyond the period of direct survival and make sense of a world where all the rules of this world and the way we live together have changed?”
She said that, like the 9/11 terrorist attack, it can take time for major events to be interpreted in mainstream media. It took seven years before the movie Cloverfield performed on 9/11 with the image of the head of the Statue of Liberty bouncing down a New York street.
Harrington said watching movies about the contagion helped her come to terms with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s allowed me to relax a bit about the pandemic. They can help us understand what we can’t control and remind us that what matters is relationships and community.