Art Reflecting Life

Over the holidays I saw Don’t Look Up.  The movie, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence in lead roles, kept reminding me of Walter Kempowski’s book, All for Nothing (Alles Umsonst).  Don’t Look Up (about a comet about to destroy our planet) is an allegory about climate change while the Kempowski novel is about the approaching Soviet Army in the final months of the Second World War. 

Both the novel and the movie explore human greed, denial and vulnerability. One character in the film sees the meteor as a potential opportunity to mine precious metals needed for his cell phone company.  The astronomers, who calculate the comet’s destructive path, appear on a TV talk show where they’re viewed as entertainment. The government (personified by a President played by Meryl Streep) only pays attention to the impending doom when it serves their own interests in avoiding the President’s sex scandal.

Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-464-0383I-26 / Kleiner / CC-BY-SA 3.0

In the last months of the war, the consequences of earlier Soviet intrusions and atrocities in Nemmersdorf, East Prussia were filmed for propaganda purposes. 

Attribution: Bundesarchiv,

Bild 183-H13717 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Mass panic had to be avoided and the truth carefully managed. Fear of the Soviet Army was manipulated into support for the Wehrmacht. While the masses struggled to evacuate along crowded roadways, Gauleiter Erich Koch, had a ship reserved for his escape in the Baltic port of Pillau, to bring him to safety (similar to the spaceship in the movie reserved for the select group of earth survivors). 

Of course, with our pandemic still raging, we can only squirm with discomfort. Here we are in 2022, dealing with our doom scenario. . . our own comet or attacking army. This enemy is invisible, lurking in the very air we breathe. Does science determine our world or is it all politics? Can we trust governments to look out for us?  How does the media affect our choices?  How do we support each other in times of crisis? These are real issues that affect our everyday. History in the making. 

Movies, novels, and other art forms serve to reflect not just our creativity but also our fragile humanity. 


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