Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion

Contagion is another example of a serious threat to society and the way in which people react. Unlike The Road, an apocalypse has not occurred and wiped out the population, but chaos has ensued during this trying time. The infectious disease has created turmoil, as people are breaking into banks, supermarkets and pharmacies trying to obtain resources without many consequences. A worldwide pandemic like the one the film portrays is something that made me think about how I would react if presented with that situation. Your perspective on life changes because your main objective is to survive as long as you can before the vaccination is finally made and available to you and your loved ones. We see how hard Mitch attempts to protect his daughter from the disease and the struggles they have dealing with this harsh reality.

A problem the scientists face in making a vaccination for the virus was being able to reproduce it. If they can’t understand the origin or content of the virus, there was no way to test a vaccine to prevent and cure it. Some of the scenes we are exposed to are the scientists working in their lab, looking at DNA through a computer monitor and trying to comprehend all aspects of this disease. The film itself represents at two-folded argument. On the one hand we have technology failing the humans, will millions worldwide dying because of the virus. It’s ironic how quick technology is for less essential things, like typing a paper on Microsoft Word or updating a status on a social networking site. Facebook itself is used a means of propaganda during the onscreen encounter between Dr. Ceever and the blogger. When it comes to saving people’s lives, the technology wasn’t quick enough to fulfill that completely. The vaccine is eventually made and saves many people who were either sick or weren’t immune to the deal, something I didn’t really anticipate. Does this suggest that technology and our resources will always overcome all? Or that the disastrous close call our world takes is just a stepping stone for what is to come, something perhaps much worse?

[Erin is on the phone to Barnes who’s on a bus]
Dr. Erin Mears: I believe you may have contact with Beth Emhoff last week?
Aaron Barnes: Yeah, I picked her up from the airport. What’s this about?
[he starts to cough]
Dr. Erin Mears: How are you feeling today?
Aaron Barnes: Pretty cruddy to be honest. My head is pounding. I probably got some sort of bug.
Dr. Erin Mears: Where are you right now?
Aaron Barnes: On the bus, heading to work.
[Erin gets into a car]
Dr. Erin Mears: I’d like you to get off immediately.

This was one of the many important scenes in the movie when Dr. Mears is attempting to discover where the disease may have come from during Beth’s business trip in Hong Kong. Here she is telling the man who picked Beth up from the airport the previous week to get off a bus and meet the investigators. There were a multitude of instances where people had to avoid human contact, whether it was not shaking hands, not touching what another person had touched, or just merely not breathing the same air. The sequence that is revealed at the end of the film, from the bulldozer knocking down trees, to the bat dropping the banana, followed by the pig eating said banana and the cook not washing the pig’s blood off his hands before he makes contact with Beth, is very telling. In regards to the relationship between technology and a catastrophic risk like the viral disease, the bulldozer is essentially a form of technology that began the entire cycle leading to the disease. We touched upon this during our discussion on Avatar and the environment has come up a lot during recent texts we’ve worked with. The decisions we make as humans does not only affect us in today’s world but will also impact those that live on years from now.

I would say that the bulldozer being the root of the cycle that created the disease in the film is at least speaking somewhat to the inability of humans to really understand how the environment that surrounds them functions. Nature is a world of its own and people have been outspoken in our class about how precious it is and that we have no right to ruin it. The sad truth is that humans, along with their technologies, are in fact changing the landscape of nature. It’s scary to think that the possibility of a disease or natural disaster occurring because of our mindless decisions still fails to serve as a wake up call to most. The path we are paving for ourselves and future generations does not seem too promising. Soderbergh appears to be sending a message in this film, similar to James Cameron, John Hillcoat, Neville Shute, and many of the other writers/directors we’ve read/seen do through their texts. If society continues to ignore warnings and be blind to the impending truth, it might be too late to fix whatever damage follows.

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