Rule of Three



directed by Steven Soderbergh
Feature film

View a still from the film

Contagion opens with a series of coughs and splutters. The camera jumps from one ailing individual to another, lingering on the train handrails, folders, and raw meat that they touch. City population stats for various cities flash up on screen, from London to Hong Kong, foreshadowing the scale of the impending devastation. The first words we see are just as ominous: ‘Day 2’. The chain of events that triggered this torment is yet to be revealed. In line with the global nature of the catastrophe, the film features a large ensemble cast, their stories neatly weaved together. The pulsing electronic soundtrack underlines the urgency of the action. As scientists struggle in laboratories, society descends into anarchy, and we are left suspicious of a single sneeze.

Words by Katherine Fieldgate


by Laurel Halo

View the album cover

We float above land, eyes closed, strains of an electric organ carried on the breeze. Our heartbeat judders quietly in bass-drum rudiments. Drips of digital water fall, spattering onto skin, as the land below shakes and rustles. Airy tones flutter by, windsong bending out of tune and whisked away. Laurel Halo drifts beside us, replying with a cryptic vocalisation of her own: ‘Endless trees worthy of some cult / So broke’. She stretches the last syllable out into three, aping the cloud call, as her phrases sway to irregular cross-rhythms. Her voice is calm, yet her words shift from being reassuring to disconcerting, caught between dream and nightmare.

Words by John Wadsworth

The Last of Us

developed by Naughty Dog
Video game

View a promotional image for the game

A girl wakes to a phone call from her panic-stricken uncle, who is desperately trying to reach her father, Joel. As the child wanders about the house in search of him, she finds a series of unsettling signs. A newspaper left lying in the bathroom warns of a health scare. A television broadcast ends in an explosion, visible from the bedroom window. Downstairs, the headlights of police cars flash past. When Joel does return home, he brings unwelcome company: a neighbour, now infected and bloodthirsty. After an attempted escape goes wrong, the game jumps forward twenty years to a world of martial law, winter rations, and rebel militia. Playing as Joel, we abandon the isolation of our allocated zone, in order to escort an immune teenager across the country.

Words by John Wadsworth

More to discover

Contagion: You can watch the trailer here, and view the scene discussed here. A post on the Oxford University Press blog considers the realism of its outbreak. One of the film's scientific advisors, Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, has been interviewed for Medscape.

Airsick: You can listen to the song here. Ruth Saxelby has interviewed Laurel Halo for Dummy Mag, as have Jenn Pelly for Pitchfork, Rory Gibb for The Quietus, and an unknown interviewer for Self-Titled Mag.

The Last of Us: You can see the trailer here, and watch a playthrough here. Kevin Ohannessian has interviewed Neil Druckmann (Naughty Dog’s creative director) and Bruce Straley (the game director) for Fast Company. Andy Robertson has interviewed Druckmann and Ashley Johnson (one of the game’s voice actors) for The Telegraph.

Today's connection

‘Airsick’ is taken from the album Quarantine. Quarantined areas play a central role to the plots of Contagion and The Last of Us.

Question of the day

Which quarantine-related artworks would you recommend?
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