Around ten years ago, actor Jude Law had starred in Contagion, a film on how an unknown virus from Hong Kong wreaked havoc on the world as it spread from country to country till it was declared a pandemic. Sounds familiar?
The movie, directed by Steven Soderbergh, stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Matt Damon and others, and was near-prophetic in the manner it depicted a pandemic and its aftermath. Now, as the world grapples to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, everyone seems to be suddenly obsessed with the 2011 movie.
In a recent interview with talk show host Jimmy Fallon, Law said that he found it weird why people were rediscovering the movie when they could just turn on the news according to a report by Buzzfeed.
"I found it a little odd that everyone went back to watch that in the middle of the real thing," he told the talk show host. "You just turn on the news, you don't need to watch it," he said.
Law also said that when the pandemic hit, he reached out to Soderbergh and said that the latter had predicted the pandemic all those years ago. Law goes on to say that he had been somewhat prepared for the pandemic. "If I'm honest... one of the most affecting memories or experiences on that film were the doctors and virologists who were advising us," he said.
So, why are people obsessing about the film?
The film begins with Paltrow returning from Hong Kong with a disease which no one has heard of before. She dies soon, but what follows is exactly similar to what's happening around the world now. The disease, which in the movie is airborne, spreads rapidly and ends up killing thousands even as doctors strive to find a cure.
There are quite a few other things which the film got right. For example, Gwyneth Paltrow's character contracts the virus from an animal. In the case of coronavirus too, the ground zero for the pandemic is considered to be a market in Wuhan Province in China which sells animal meat.
Also, guess the punch line for the movie? "Don't talk to anyone or touch anyone." Now isn't that what we're calling self isolation or social distancing these days?
Nearly deserted airports. Empty roads. Government enforced quarantines. No, we aren't describing scenes from countries as they went into lockdown a few months from the movie. We're describing scenes from the movie.
Movies and TV shows have gorged on natural disasters like these over the years, making it a full-blown genre. Even the zombie movies are based on a similar concept - of a brain-eating virus that ravages through populations.
The execution is always the same. There's always a patient zero, who usually dies but not before passing on the disease to hundreds others. There's always a team of dedicated scientists in a race to find a cure and most of the films paint a heartbreaking picture of the chaos, trauma and despair in the case of such an outbreak.
But why are people turning to these movies now? The question arises, why would people, exasperated with news of coronavirus bombarding their phones everyday, turn to movies on the very same theme?
Well, science says it could be all about exposure therapy. For the unaware, exposure therapy is exposing the perso concerned to the root of anxiety and fear in order to cure him or her of it.
In other words, as more and more people are being forced into quarantining themselves with the pandemic spreading faster than one could possibly imagine, they're turning their attentions to movies like Contagion or the 1995 movie, Outbreak, which gives them some solace, some tips on how to deal with isolation and how to protect loved ones and at the same time, kills time.