There is a virus called Ebola
and it is endemic to Africa. It is one of the most deadly viruses known and causes an almost always fatal, haemorrhagic fever (up to 95% mortality). The virus first emerged in 1976 in simultaneous outbreaks in Sudan and Zaire and is similar to another similar virus that is as deadly, the Marburg virus. The Ebola virus is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected persons. The animal that harbours the virus is still unknown, but the virus can infect a wide variety of species, including gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines. Infected bats seem to survive the infection, so perhaps these are the natural reservoir of infection.
Ebola virus infection is characterised by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat, 2-21 days after infection. This is often followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases both internal and external bleeding. The organs liquefy and the infected person is highly infectious. No specific treatment or vaccine is yet available for Ebola haemorrhagic fever.
I have prefaced Movie Monday thus, as I am dealing with a “What If…” movie, which although is billed as a science fiction/horror movie it is based on some science and raises some important philosophical questions. The film is Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later…” (2002)
. This movie was marketed as a horror movie, but unfortunately, this was a wrong move. It has themes that are far more significant and the questions it poses are quite important and worthy of deep reflection.
The plot outline revolves around a new virus that causes infected animals and humans to become violent, bloodthirsty monsters overcome by rage. The first question the viewer is asked is: “How do you feel about animal experimentation?”
. We are shown some graphic footage of monkeys in captivity in a scientific laboratory, which are being subjected to some horrific-looking experiments (this movie is not for the faint-hearted!). We the viewers are immediately tempted to take the side of the animal liberationists who have come to rescue these animals… However, the situation is not as simple as it looks. The monkeys are infected – the virus they are infected with is a terrible one and we do not know what the purpose of the experiments are. In their zeal, the liberationists unwisely release the virus-infected animals and become their first victims.
When the virus is unleashed, it very soon (28 days!) spreads and infects almost all of the population of England, converting the infected populace into a mass of wild, ravenous, beastly murderers intent of annihilating one another. The movie concerns a small group of uninfected people that try to survive. The second question posed by Boyle is: “At what price survival?”
The uninfected can only protect themselves by becoming as efficient as possible at killing the infected people, no matter who they are – family, friends, lovers. Human relationships and basic human needs are explored by the film’s first half where the small group of uninfected people try to make their way from a deserted and desolate London (chillingly shown) to a location near Manchester where they have heard an army radio signal from another group of survivors.
The second half of the movie looks at the interaction between the two groups of survivors – Londoners and the Army unit near Manchester. This second half brought to mind “The Lord of the Flies” and the questions posed by Boyle are similar to those one is considering when reading Golding’s book. “How civilised are we really? Can we preserve our higher values and social organization when put under enormous stresses? Does our will to survive, our self-preservation instinct override all other considerations?”
There is extreme violence in the film and some horrific images. The language is often coarse and the plot quite confronting. The message of the film is timely, the situations portrayed disturbingly plausible and the tale spun is more than gory horror flick that satisfies the ghouls amongst us (there are other more gory and sickeningly horrific films that do this more efficiently). What was more disturbing for me were some images that were interspersed within the action and could be missed by the casual observer. A shot of goldfish swimming agonisingly in a tank with dwindling water; a scene where pills are handed out to a young girl “to make her not care” what will happen to her; a scene where the hero’s eyes glaze over as he is forced to commit a murder, which is so much against his nature…
The film has some flaws, but is powerful enough and sufficiently well constructed to overcome these and they are not what was left in my mind after I had watched the film. I recommend it, but be warned, this is a raw and confronting movie.