”Contagion” – Compulsory Viewing or the Last Film You Would Want to Watch Right Now?

by yemenity2010

– Try not touching your face…

Did you by any chance get that advice lately? Here in Sweden, we certainly have. Problem is… You can’t help it. We do it a lot more often than we are aware of. First time I remember being reminded of that fact was roughly eight years ago, while watching ”Contagion”. Maybe you’ve heard it mentioned once or twice these past weeks? Almost regardless of where you might live…

Lockdown. Borders closed. Financial meltdown. Obvious differences in governmental policies during a global crisis. A lot of of what we are facing at the moment was dealt with in the storyline of ”Contagion”, a dense, intense drama directed by Steven Soderbergh. The guy known for ”Sex, Lies and Videotape”, ”Traffic”, the highly underappreciated series ”The Knick” and a bunch of other stuff. The man is most likely a workaholic. Also, a distinctly realist, albeit stylistic, artist in his field. His natural instincts serve him (and the audience) well in a case like this. At least, that’s how I remember it. Haven’t rewatched it lately. Judging from a review I wrote in Swedish some eight years ago, ”Contagion” grapples with basically everything coming out of our daily news feeds as we speak, the month of March, the Year of our Lord 2020 AD.

People start getting seriously unwell in places all over the world. Authorities and governments struggle with decisions; What exactly is this disease? How does it spread? How do you stop it? What’s worst – doing too much, acting too fast or not acting at all? Quarantine, martial law, isolation, stockpiling, looting… You know, things like that. We learn things about the so-called Spanish Flu (which really wasn’t a Spanish invention, but you knew that already, right?). And, the face-touching detail… As explained by Kate Winslet (as seen in the trailer above), people in general do it three to five times ’every waking minute’. Which makes how often a regular day? Do the math, if you’re up for it.

Of course, I’m not the only one who started thinking about this particular film lately. Take this article in The Verge for example, explaining how it became increasingly more popular, first in South Korea, then in Australia, United States and other countries. Now, the obvious question: no, it doesn’t appear to be conveniently streamable on Netflix or any other major platform at the moment. Not here in Sweden, not in the US either judging from the article mentioned. I have a vague memory of seeing the title pop up in the Netflix menu a few months ago, but as of right now – no, it isn’t there to be found or watched. I was pretty sure I had DVD copy somewhere at home, but couldn’t find it here either. I did, however, come across a Bluray copy from an online store recently. So. It is here, physically, right in front of me while I’m writing this. I had been thinking of using it as a teaching tool in the school for adult students where I work. But, like so many other institutions in so many places, we recently switched to Distance teaching due to the circumstances you’re already aware of. As far as we know at this time, the current pandemic isn’t quite as lethal as the one described in this film. However, its impact on our daily lives has already been severe. Hopefully, affected societies will recover, but we’re in for a time of trials in many ways.

Question remains; should I rewatch ”Contagion” right now in any case, or wait? Is it absolutely essential viewing this week or the last thing I would want to get immersed in while trying to sort everything going on in the real world simultaneously?

I guess I’ll get back to you on that. Stay safe, if possible. Wait a minute, did I really write this piece without ever explicitly naming the cor…