Good and Evil in Virus Films. Litmus Test of Modern Civilization
Heidi de Mare en Gawie Keyser, 30 maart 2020
Oorspronkelijk artikel gepubliceerd in 2010: „De lakmoesproef van de moderne beschaving. Goed en Kwaad in virusfilms“, in: A. Oderwald et al. (red.), Besmet (Literatuur en Geneeskunde, De Tijdstroom): 99-108.
No more powerful image of the undermining of modern life than the opening scene 28 WEEKS LATER (2007). In the kitchen of a house, shrouded in darkness, a book is burned for lack of central heating. The first sign of the reversal of the ordinary order: what was once the source of the intellect, symbol par excellence of human civilization, is now fuel necessary for survival. Soon after, it is confirmed that the human relations known to us have been overthrown. The male protagonist, Don, behaves subversive, not as is expected of a male hero. Instead of rescuing his beloved wife Alice, he takes off like a coward, leaving his wife to the infected, raging horde. He escapes and is housed in the army secured area in London and united with his two children, Tammy and Andy, who stayed abroad during the outbreak. The children escape from the protected area, guarded by soldiers, and find their feral mother in their parental home. Alice is not infected but turns out to be a carrier. The reunification of Don, who feels guilty, and the weakened Alice, sealed with a kiss, is the beginning of a new epidemic, which eventually becomes uncontrollable. The kiss, symbol of love, infects the father who is filled with blind hatred, revenge and self-destruction. He kills his wife, and hunts down his children for the rest of the film, biting and infecting everyone along the way. The result is an outbreak of unprecedented proportions. The army, at the beginning of 28 WEEKS LATER still a symbol of order and security, becomes an instrument of mass murder. By activating Code Red, the army destroys the entire area. From the roofs of the skyscrapers in the heart of London, they fire at all the people within the city limits and bomb them with incendiary bombs. Tammy and Andy escape, but are chased by Don. After Don has attacked his son, Tammy shoots him dead, after which they flee together. By helicopter they fly over white cliffs of Dover in the direction of the European mainland where they hopefully will be safe. For England is lost. The plot ends with images of 28 days later, when, again, a virus outbreak occurs. The quaky images show the Eiffel Tower, target of a horde of running infected. The film refers directly to the production that preceded it: 28 DAYS LATER (2002). That completes the virus story. Together, the two films set in motion an endless plot cycle of threat, rescue and new spread. No boundary is sustainable. Civilization as we know it is dying.