“Contagion”: The Review
In April 2009 the world was aghast at a horrific event – the start of the pandemic of the new strain of H1N1 virus known to the general public as a “swine flu”. The disease claimed over 1900 lives. The flu caused mass frenzy on a worldwide scale, and hysteria over medicine. The population was terrified to the point of buying everything and anything the pharmacies could offer. Eventually, when the turmoil subsided, many scholars presumed that such an occurrence could be called a “mass psychosis”. The governments and the corporations, on the other hand, were utilizing it for the purpose of realizing the medicine close to the expiration date. This sequence of events, which took place rather recently, became a basis for “Contagion”, a captivating film by Steven Soderbergh.
“Contagion” is a film that touches upon many social aspects of human lives. The director’s intention was to demonstrate attitude of a person towards their neighbor under extremely desperate and perilous circumstances. The virus is but a mere background. In my opinion, Soderbergh’s real design was to depict a thorough analysis of human nature as bizarre as it is. He managed to skillfully showcase how in the event of a catastrophe people rapidly devolve from “homo sapiens” into the Neanderthals, adverse to any laws and impervious to any ethical norms or morals. When it comes down to survival, nature easily trumps nurture, and the director not once strays from this message for the duration of the film.
He intentionally does not present the viewers with any clarification of which character is good or evil, thus letting each person draw their own conclusion. One thing is obvious: each of the main characters constitutes a manifestation of the inner workings of human nature under dire circumstances. Some of them choose to go on the defense and suffer by losing everything they ever cared about; others choose the path of selflessness and give their all to helping other people; and then there are naturally those who profiteer of the suffering of others by wrapping their ego up in a protective suit. Every character is a human archetype, established thousands of years ago and unchangeable still.
This film is an image of the most everyday kind of apocalypse, which starts as a mere local epidemic and grows to evolve into a global pandemic. There are no boundaries to halt it, it moves with a speed of light and can catch you up, whether you are in Hong Kong, London or Los Angeles. No place is safe, and no one is protected. A single spark is enough to cause the world to plunge completely into chaos and anarchy. The fight with illness subtly turns into a battle for survival, where everyone cares for himself or herself, exclusively. The viewer witnesses a total trample of morality, the rise of looting, and a blatant readiness and willingness to kill anyone in their pass only to get hold of the cure.
“Contagion” is a film which masterfully articulates the following point: if a problem affecting the humanity as a whole arises nowadays, the humanity will surely perish, without putting up any fight, for one simple reason: most people are only going to try and save their own lives as opposed to trying to find a solution and working together for the sake of a common cause. In the words of a character from the film: “Someone doesn't have to weaponize the bird flu. The birds are doing that.” (Soderbergh 2011) The humanity has done enough to endanger itself, but whether it is able to protect itself remains questionable.
Soderbergh, Steven. Contagion. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2011. Film.