In the age of self-isolation, I’ve started to change how I watch films. I’ve begun to clock moments when characters break the government rules on physical closeness. Consider the “I know it was you, Fredo” scene from The Godfather Part II. Or the bit in 2001: A Space Odyssey where all the astronauts gather for a photo by the moon monolith. Or the weird arm-wrestle thing between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers at the start of Predator. These moments now feel jarring and alien.
It’s a reminder of how impossible it is to tell a traditional story in a lockdown setting. In fact, many beloved films would be dramatically altered in the age of the coronavirus.
Look, I’ll prove it.
Jaws: Nobody goes to the beach in the first place, and the shark eventually dies of hunger.
Rocky: A film about a young underdog who struggles for recognition in the brutal world of video conferencing.
Sleeping Beauty: A woman stays asleep for ever because Prince Charming doesn’t fancy risking it by kissing anyone, thanks.
Requiem for a Dream: The dream in question is now “going to the pub”.
Titanic: Suddenly the world agrees that Kate Winslet should have let Leonardo DiCaprio die, because there is no way that raft is two metres wide.
The Silence of the Lambs: Clarice Starling visits Hannibal Lector not because she wants him to help her profile a serial killer, but because she wants to learn how to mimic his amazing home isolation set-up.
The Lion King: As the sun rises over the pride lands of Africa, hundreds of beautiful animals are drawn towards Pride Rock. Rafiki climbs to the summit and, as the animals all bow their heads in reverence, thrusts his arms out to show them the greatest sight of all: a baby lion, on a Facebook Messenger video call, filming himself with his iPhone and unable to turn off the filter that makes his face look like a foot.
Brief Encounter: Now entitled No Encounter.
Inside Man: Now entitled Stay Inside Man.
Toy Story: Now entitled Germ Story.
Seven Years in Tibet: Now entitled Seven Years in My Living Room With My Annoying Flatmate.
Fight Club: The first rule of Fight Club is to sing Happy Birthday all the way through twice while you’re washing your hands. And use soap, for crying out loud.
Dangerous Minds – Michelle Pfeiffer expands the minds of the three remaining inner-city students who get to stay in school because their parents qualify as key workers.
It’s a Wonderful Life: George Bailey, having seen a vision of how much poorer the world would be if he’d never been born, loses all of his suicidal tendencies and rushes home to greet the family he loves so very much. Except they won’t let him in, so he has to sleep in his garage for a week.
Psycho: In which a woman has a perfectly nice shower, because even serial killers driven mad by the constant orders of their dead mothers know better than to make unnecessary face-to-face contact with others.
Castaway: Thanks to his fastidious hand-cleaning regime, stranded islander Tom Hanks cannot create Wilson and soon dies of loneliness.
The Social Network: The creation story of the thing you use instead of going to visit your grandparents.
When Harry Met Sally: Oh please, who actually meets people any more?
The Sound of Music: Three words into her opening song, Julie Andrews is detained by police because twirling around on a mountaintop doesn’t qualify as essential travel.
Gravity: Sandra Bullock takes her chances in space, thanks very much.
Back to the Future – A cool young dude and his middle-aged scientist friend build a time machine, allowing them to travel back to January 2020 and tell Boris Johnson to shut the schools a few weeks earlier.
All Is Lost – Robert Redford battles the elements in his boat alone. His vessel is ruined. His food supply still dwindles. He accidentally sets his boat on fire in a botched call for help and dive into the sea knowing that it would likely be his last act. As his vision fades, he sees a hand outstretched above the surface, but he ignores it because he doesn’t know how thoroughly it’s been washed.
Casablanca: The line “Here’s looking at you, kid” will now be amended to “Here’s looking at you through a thick plate of disinfected glass, kid.”
Before Sunrise: An American man and a French woman find a moment of fleeting yet intense connection on Chatroulette.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: Exactly the same as the original film, except it now ends with a harrowing 25-minute montage showing what happened to all the people Bueller infected with the coronavirus during his irresponsible time spent out of the house.
Oldboy: In which a man is kidnapped and kept in isolation for 15 years, and then doesn’t subject his captors to a bloodthirsty campaign of revenge because he’s actually quite grateful to them.
The Shining: A documentary about Stuart Heritage’s life right now.