A friend recently was worried about today, fearing that the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001 would be a time for another attack. I told her that we couldn't just sit and panic in anticipation of such an attack. Walking forward was the only thing we could do. Also, I added, it's the best thing we can do.
This weekend would seem to be a perverse time to premiere CONTAGION, Steven Soderbergh's tale of a deadly virus that sweeps the globe during a tumultuous autumn and winter. It would be difficult to divorce one's feelings about today from the feelings evoked by this remarkable and spare film. Soderbergh plays expertly on personal and social phobias, capturing both the societal breakdown in the face of disaster and the tiny gestures by which the plague is spread. But its moments of light prove just as potent, similarly tiny gestures that speak to our capacity to stand tall and resolute in the face of chaos.
Though I'd thought I'd put most of my emotions about today behind me, I braced myself for a potentially rough ride. The movie was involving from the first minute, and its startling deployment of the caption "Day 2". But it was one of its artful turning points (a moment involving Jennifer Ehle and a chimp that offered a curious mirror to similar moments in RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES) that truly took me over. After the film I took a much-needed break in the lobby and wept for a moment. After straightening up, I wiped away my tears and, though perhaps not entirely purged, walked forward, out the door into the sunlight.