The Corona Diaries: Friday the 13th.

By Mege. – Friday 13th. What a coincidence. It was the day the Swiss authorities told us that we should all keep our distance from one another, that we should work from home if at all possible, that congregations of more than 100 people were a no-go and that we should self-quarantine if we felt sick. (Please note that these measures are only valid for Switzerland and are already obsolete anyway. Check with your own authorities.) Most shops and restaurants were still open. The situation seemed serious, but not really desperate. I still thought that my week-long holiday in Berlin might really happen. Hah.

So on Saturday, I felt the familiar urge to go to the movies. What to do? How to get into the city, since I live in the suburbs? Public transport was for those who absolutely needed to go to their workplace, so I took my bike and went. I wanted to see Color out of Space, and it was on only as a late show at the Rex in Bern. To set the mood for a horror flick, it was already dark when I set out on the forty-minute ride.

Almost no-one was on the backroad that I took, but that is the suburbs for you. Then I passed a brothel, and I realized that it must have been still open because a car pulled up and parked in the last available spot right in front of the house. We all had already been told not to shake hands and to sneeze into our own armpits while this establishment still offered its services. Are some men so horny that they risk getting the coronavirus in exchange for paid sex? How about the family men among them, carrying the virus home to their wives and kids? And, more importantly, what about the safety of the working women? Have they been given the opportunity to opt out, or are they under such pressure that not even a pandemic was enough to give them a break?

Bleak thoughts, and I had to think them alone. Bern is not exactly a pulsating metropolis at the best of times, but there should have been more people about on a Saturday night. Was everyone already sequestered at home with Netflix?

I arrived at the Rex. There were only two, three people at the bar. The week before, everyone buying a ticket had to write their name down on a list, but that measure had been cancelled and replaced by the policy of selling tickets only for every other seat in the two screening rooms. I talked to the friendly guy behind the bar made up for it in asking me about Mandy, which I recommended to him. We found out that we both liked It Follows. Eventually, people came out of the evening show; some left straight away, others stayed for a drink. I went in, and indeed: two good friends talked to each other across an empty seat, and there was a young couple sitting side by side. They might have been in a similar situation as me: if you live with someone, then they might be infected already. The important thing is to not pass the virus on to others with whom you do not live in the same flat. Besides, now can you not want to touch the person you love and are regularly intimate with? It is hard, almost impossible to reject that kind of intimacy. It must be a very difficult time for singles living alone.

Color Out of Space is nowhere near Mandy on the “Let Nicholas out of the Cage” scale. It’s a minor horror flick you might keep watching if you find it anywhere on TV because it’s got Nick Cage in it. The film is loosely based on an H. P. Lovecraft short story, but it’s set in the here and now, and I have a hunch that any literary influence has been kept to a minimum. There is a meteor crashing into the Gardner’s garden, and eventually, there are strange things happening: otherworldly flowers, restless alpacas, contamined water, fugue states, and so on. There is a funny scene where Cage’s character mumbles through a TV interview, and when he sees himself on screen later on, he complains to his family that someone should have handed him a comb beforehand.

And so the horror starts: Theresa, the wife and mother, gets somehow fused to her young son, the older daughter, who is a medium of some kind, gets to be a kind of vessel for the extraterrestrial colorful power to better spread and concentrate its influence. It’s impossible not to think of The Wicker Man at that point in the movie. There is a great supporting role for Tommy Chang as an eternally doped hippie in his hut in the woods, whose warnings seem to go nowhere. And there is Q’orianka Kilcher as the mayor who might be responsible for the contaminated water. Cage is just there to go slightly mad and to lie to the police.

It was already Saturday when I left. I left no-one at all on the way home except that when I passed the brothel again, another car pulled into the parking lot.

It was only a few days later that I realized that that was the last film on a big screen for me for a long long time. All the non-essential shops and venues are closed now. It’s impossible to say what the almost-lockdown will do for the already shrinking movie theater scene in Bern, or the movie world as a whole. In a more short-sighted way, what did the lockdown do to me and my addiction to story-telling? With books, it is easy: go to your bookshelf or to your stack of unread novels. With books, I don’t have that compulsion to read the latest and newest stuff out, but with movies, that is another matter.

I am a subscriber to mubi.com, where you pay a small monthly fee and then get a choice of thirty movies for free. There is a new movie, documentary or short every day (the oldest entry has to go after 30 days), and their range is more on the art-house side, but there is nothing to complain about when they offer you a hard-to-find Louis Malle movie for almost nothing.

There is also cinefile.ch, which features a lot of Swiss features, but also films from all over Europe, and at the moment, you can also find The Green Book and Whiplash on there. They also have a cinema program section, but that one is empty for the time being. You pay a small monthly fee and also a smallish amount for the streaming itself.

Then there is lesvideos.ch, and if you are in Switzerland looking for hard-to-find movies to rent, you are in luck. They have a rental store in Zurich, but they also offer a flat-rate subscription for CHF 365.00, and they will send you all the movies they have in their impressive collection.

And if they should reduce the local Netflix streaming capacity in order to secure working from home, there is a tip I’ve got for you: the excellent documentary Must Read After My Death about a dysfunctional family, and Ramin Bahrani’s social drama Chop Shop are both available on Youtube. Help is near, and you are not alone. Keep watching.

 

 

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