~ A Film Just Before Its Time ~
If there ever was a film I was terrified of upon its release - it was this one.
Just the other day, I recently re-watched “Contagion” - the now infamous film from 2011 - starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon, amongst many other notable actors and actresses.
I had seen Contagion ten years ago, upon its release. And I remember thinking at the time how scary of a film it truly was.
To me - Contagion was a horror film.
An apocalyptic film.
A sci-fi film.
A nightmare scenario.
Eerie. Very eerie.
A film that scared the living daylights out of me.
It shook me - to the core. But, why?
I could never really understand that. Why? Why did this film so severely affect me at the time of initial viewing? Was it a sense of foreboding? A sense of truth in terror? A feeling that fiction is reality? Or can someday be?
Can all fiction someday come true?
And what about historical films? Can history repeat itself? Was there ever a film made about the 1918 influenza outbreak? If so, did anybody learn anything from it? Or were we just doomed to have it all happen all over again, no matter what film was made, or not? No matter what happened in the past, does history always repeat itself?
I also remember thinking at the time that I could NEVER, EVER rewatch this film. It was too horrific for my brain to process this storyline more than once. A note to self - once and done. If this film happened to reair on cable tv years later, I would NOT be viewing it. Remember - CONTAGION.
Well, little did I know that I’d actually watch it two more times in the next ten years.
Was I crazy or something? Why would I purposely subject myself to a film that so obviously had shaken me?
At the very beginning of the Covid 19 outbreak, just a bit before it was formally declared a global pandemic, so a little over a year ago now… I went ahead and rented Contagion from the Jacksonville Public Library.
Something told me it was time to rewatch this scary film. There were things happening in the news that sounded awfully similar to what I had watched all those years before, on screen.
What the heck was I doing?
I brought home the DVD, carried it in the house, and I let the disc just sit there on my console table. I was thinking - contemplating…
Should I rewatch this horror?
But I was curious. Very curious.
And - By this time, nine years had gone by since I watched the film.
It was the year 2020. I had turned 39. Nothing scared me anymore. Nothing.
I had changed A LOT in those nine years since first viewing the film.
Now, I actually LIKE watching horror films. Apocalyptic films, sci-fi films, suspense films, thriller films, you name it, if it keeps my brain utterly and totally occupied, I’ll watch it. And I enjoy them all.
So, as the world was getting closer and closer to a nasty and evil and very real pandemic raging outside our walls, I had Contagion sitting there - waiting for me to view it once again.
So as the real life nightly news began preaching more and more about washing hands, using sanitizer, and cases of this novel coronavirus spreading widely, my curiosity peaked.
I ended up putting the DVD into the player, and I hit play. On a lovely evening, after a very busy day at work, and with a tv dinner in hand, my husband and I rewatched Contagion - for the second time.
This time, I watched it from start to finish - with the backdrop of a real life, strange, and mysterious virus standing just outside my door.
This time, I watched with an open mind.
This time, I watched to see how the world handled itself in this fictional crisis and war-like situation.
Well - of course - the world went crazy. Completely and utterly crazy.
On this fictional Earth - There were protests and riots, destruction and houses broken into. There were gunshots. There were bare store shelves, military on the streets, quarantines, and gloves, and hand sanitizer, and blockades, masks, and treatments, studies and vaccine research. And there was isolation, and school closures, contact tracing, and even discussion on how to allocate and distribute those precious vials of potential immunity. This list does go on.
It was all there.
It was scary, yes.
But it was still so fictional.
The film was still so out of touch with reality.
It was still sooo sci-fi.
We finished off the film. And went to bed. And went back to normal and not so crazy life. But, I guess, little did we know at the time that normal life wouldn’t be so normal anymore. Just a matter of days and weeks later. All that crazy - was coming our way.
As I slipped the DVD in its case and then slid it through the return slot at the library… the world outside went ahead and changed on us all.
So then the pandemic came. Once upon a time in a not so distant world. A virus plagued us all - IN. REAL. LIFE.
The fictional world of Contagion came true.
With shocking and detailed accuracy. Even down to conspiracy theorists influencing millions of people in various ways, and people wearing bubbles around their heads.
So as the one year anniversary of the plague came around, I found myself the other day, in contemplation, yet again. Over the film - Contagion.
Something told me I had to rewatch this horrific film, yet one more time.
How would I view Contagion, after experiencing a real life one?
So, for now the third time, I rented the film from the local library.
And I did my now usual hesitation - but this time just for a split second. I laughed. And I popped the film into the DVD player.
What on Earth is there to hesitate about at this point? Have we not seen it all in this past year?
This now silly and comedic film couldn’t possibly scare me now! Ha! As I laugh at our messed up little globe. The problems humanity has to deal with couldn’t scare me out of my mind. Nothing could shake me - to the core - after enduring what we’ve endured.
So, last night, at the age of 40, and ten years after its release, with a dinner consisting of frozen pizza and club soda, we rewatched Contagion, yet again.
Gosh, Matt Damon looks a lot younger there! - I thought as the film began.
I laughed as they tried to identify the virus - it’s ‘novel’ said the CDC.
And I remembered how a year ago I kept asking myself, why are they calling this virus a NOVEL virus?
I gasped as panic set in, similar to the real life panic.
My jaw dropped at the bare store shelves. And the fight for food and survival.
And I flat out had to press pause as all of societal order - began to break down.
It’s easy to look back and think all this was coming, and coming fast, and that we simply weren’t prepared. It’s easy to think of the should haves and could haves - now.
But how could we really have been prepared for the apocalypse? How does one prepare for a meteor to hit the planet? Not everyone has MRE’s sitting in a climate controlled basement bunker, patiently sitting there and waiting for their time in the limelight.
I hit play again and continued watching. They spoke of people leaving their clothes at their front door upon return home from work. So as not to contaminate their house.
Matt Damon’s character repeatedly hands his daughter hand sanitizer after they touch objects outside their home.
His daughter spends basically a year at home, sitting in her room, and texting her friends. Growing increasingly sad, anxious, and desperate for the end to this worldwide ordeal. When would she go back to school?
Well, as in all good end-of-the world films, the saga did come to an end. They found a vaccine - not necessarily a treatment - from what I understood of the ending, anyway. The world moved on. People started to venture on with their lives, slowly, and hesitatingly. And the story closes following a bird and a bat and a pig and raw meat and a chef and bare hands, and then - a handshake.
I think the very end of the film is always what scared me the very, very most about it.
While Contagion was completely fictional. Seeing it for the third time shook me again - this time to the core - again. Yes, the entire film was a work of fiction. But what was nerve-wracking and shocking to me, now, with this third viewing, was how true to life the entire storyline was. How did this film predict all that was to come? How did this story come true - down to a T? To the finest detail?
It was as if real life over this past year was scripted to match this film. Or was it that the film had been scripted to match the future real life? It all was just so eerie to watch. It was truly scary. Can fiction really become reality? And you know what? It was probably more difficult to watch the film for this third and final time. That’s right, I finally don’t need another viewing. Three and I’m done. I’ve lived through the film and I’ve lived it in real life. Next in line for viewing, please.
What was it about it for this third viewing that was so shocking to me? Why did the film originally shake me to the core ten years ago? Why was I so scared watching a piece of pure and utter fiction? Why did the bat and the pig and the raw meat imagery stay in my mind for all those years?
Maybe, just maybe, it was because I knew, ten years ago, deep in the back of my mind, how real and possible and true this piece of fiction could become, if we just gave it enough time. ~
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