By Erin Waks
I think it goes without saying that this year has been far from what any of us could have ever imagined. There isn’t a person who has been unaffected – from schoolchildren and students missing out on education and socialisation, to those who have lost jobs or placed on furlough, to the elderly, isolated and lonely. More importantly, many have unfortunately passed away, or had to cope with the loss of friends and family. And, we can’t ignore the hugely detrimental impact of the coronavirus on certain groups; those who live alone, victims of domestic abuse, and many others in precarious or dangerous situations. And, like other traumatic events in history, I have no doubt that one day many a film will be made about this period of our lives. In fact, Netflix has even released Homemade, a collection of short films shot during lockdown. But what will these future films look like? What will their key features be? Their overriding themes, overarching ideas? Whilst I am sure the results will be limitless, I do think one thing will be central: personal lives, personal stories, and personal impacts.
Of course, we are sure to expect huge variation in the future of film, particularly considering that we do not yet know the long-term impacts of the virus. However, we can safely assume that, in light of general filmic trends, we are always hooked by individual stories. Personally, I do not think representations of the global pandemic will differ in terms of this. What may be different, though, is what we actually see. I have my own vision for the representation of this period, and it comes in the form of human voyeurism upon the lives of our neighbours during the lockdown. Whilst we have all lived through the lockdown, and now through the second one, what we have not done, is lived through someone else’s lockdown. I think we’d all be intrigued to see what has happened in the homes of people across the world.
Picture this: the opening shot zooms in upon a typical nuclear family, huddled in front of the television, sharing popcorn in their pyjamas. We see the smiling faces of the children, the parents relishing some time with their family.
Cut to three weeks later. The parents look visibly exhausted, and barely speak to each other as they pour cup after cup of coffee, screaming at evidently agitated young children. the ambience of our first scene has gone.
Cut to young couple, dancing around the kitchen together, baking a banana bread and showing the vomit-inducing signs of being in love. They watch movies, go for long walks, stay up late talking, and bask in the delight of being close to their partner.
Again, cut to three weeks later. They’ve either managed to stay together, now hosting their live zoom wedding, or they’ve broken up, sleeping on the very far ends of the bed, and trying not to kill each other. Maybe something in between.
And, like other traumatic events in history, I have no doubt that one day many a film will be made about this period of our lives.
Perhaps we will see some more harrowing scenes – a shift on a Covid ward in a hospital, the gradual loneliness of a person living alone, or other personal stories.
From a more political perspective, I also doubt any film on this period could avoid touching on the US Presidential elections. Whilst they are always well publicised around the world, this year they were even more so, unsurprising given the circumstances. Anxiety levels amongst US and non-US citizens were at an all time high, and so much hung in the balance of the results – fear of Trump’s re-election, outcry against his outright racist policies, and a desire for a more tolerant American president. The period of voting meant a lot of sleepless nights, that which requires much filmic representation, and I also don’t think the world will be able to forget Trump’s childish ‘poor loser’ tweets. There would be something almost comedic about his response to his loss, if it weren’t so real, and his near-win not so close to possible .
Whatever films on this period look like, three things will be clear. They will have to firstly show the real impacts of the crisis – the hardships, the stress, the isolation, and not merely the Instagram-appropriate images of yoga, perfect muffins and park runs. Second, they will have to show stories, not one story. And, finally, they must end with a tone of hope. It’s the only thing that has dragged many of us through, and will continue to do so. Without it, I fear our memory of this pandemic will have too traumatic an impact on our spirit.