It’s strange to think that children born within the last eight years or so will develop their first memories in a world where social distancing and mask wearing are the norm. While most of us have made significant lifestyle adjustments during the pandemic, this group of children has never known anything different. We certainly hope things will have gone back to “normal” by the time this generation comes of age, but there’s no doubt that COVID-19 will have many lasting effects on the world. In the short film “6,480 Days,” writer/director Ran Slavin imagines a future in which the lockdown never ended, and the virus is still a very real threat. The narrator, a young man born sometime after the initial outbreak, reflects on the pre-pandemic world he never knew. But like any good post-apocalyptic vision, “6,480 Days” has a lot more to say about our current fears and attitudes than those of future generations.
This five-minute short takes place roughly 18 years after the start of quarantine (hence the title). Our invisible speaker, who delivers a simple and melancholy narration that reads like a free-verse poem, can’t remember a time without virus precautions. He dreams of an “improbable” reality in which people walk around and interact freely without fear. His narration is structured around the repeated line, “They say that when you dream of a possible future, it can bleed its way back into the present.” There’s a lot packed into this line: it could be a mantra, a denial, or a hopeful plea. But as the somewhat distorted images of the film “bleed” into one another, it seems that the narrator is trying to will his vision of a virus-free world into reality.
The short could be interpreted in several different ways: it might be a dream, a motion-picture scrapbook, or a stream of consciousness set to film. It’s defined by its depressing tone, a product of the grainy and muted images, the speaker’s low voice, and the dreamlike, hypnotic music. The meditative narration is accompanied by images in and around Hong Kong, where the speaker was born. However, these are not necessarily images of the narrator’s world in 2030-something. While there are a few flashes of protesters wearing masks, the film is mostly filled with images of a pre-pandemic society: skylines and cityscapes, rainy bus stops, and neon-lit street corners where people are, in fact, walking around mask-free. These images represent a “faded hologram,” a picture of what the narrator imagines the world was like before the pandemic. His vision of the life he never knew is clouded by the gloomy, noir, and isolated perspective that came to define life for many during the toughest parts of lockdown.
Rather than delve into a “what if the pandemic never ends” scenario, Slavin uses these moody images to reflect on the lasting impact that the pandemic may have on our overall worldview. And yet, he ends the short on a hopeful note, successfully shifting the tone within the last few seconds and reminding us that sometimes, we can change our current circumstances just by changing the way we think.
Watch "6,480 Days" now on Vimeo
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."