“Stillness has taken over the concrete jungle,” says a mellow voice-over at the beginning of the video, where we recognize Berlin’s emblematic TV Tower in Alexanderplatz. We’re being introduced to the first chapter of the series Hazard, titled Home, recorded during the lockdown in the German capital aiming to portray the three stages of quarantine: first, nostalgia of the past and a feeling of uncanniness; second, fear of others and paranoia; and finally, the liberating experience of going out again but with a new sense of caution and awareness.
Divided into three different chapters – Home, Dusk and Blaze, – the series Hazard, directed by Paris- and Berlin-based studio Antilope, and produced by Core, follows a group of Berliners through the different stages, emotions and feelings of quarantine imposed by the government to minimize the spread of Covid-19. “Berlin is a pretty special city to live in, full of artists and free thinkers,” explain Elliot and Louis, founders of Antilope and directors of the videos. “It is very different from German towns. The lockdown has been implemented differently in the German states. Here, we had the 1,50 m social distancing, closed restaurants, and closed clubs, which left a big part of the population without work, but also time to re-focus and centre ourselves.”
As everyone started to seclude inside their homes and companies functioned through remote work, the team behind Hazard rushed to finish the last details of the production process. “We had thought about doing something on the topic of confinement all the way back in January, and after first hearing of Covid-19 in Europe, we started to throw around a couple of ideas,” they explain. “When lockdown hit Berlin, this idea became even clearer.” But things were more complicated than usual.
The tricky situation and safety measures made it “hard to find a team willing to work in such conditions,” but after a few turndowns, they finally “managed to find motivated people wanting to mark this period in history.” “We respected all the current safety measures and the social distancing on set. The team was quite small, with loads of locations all around the city. It was very tiring but the crew did an amazing job in such a difficult environment,” they say.
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Aiming to reflect on the different moods and emotions we’ve been through these past months, they finally decided to go for a three-part story, although it was difficult to settle on a definitive idea at first: “It is important to point out that since the conception of the project, the notion and very understanding of Covid-19 has been constantly evolving. We didn’t really know what we were talking about. Even now, we don’t know for certain if this is something exceptional or just one episode of the new series of our lives. So our ideas evolved too – we changed titles multiple times, words, meanings, and also the format.”
Today, we present the first of the three chapters that are the result of this months-long process. Home is about the first stage of lockdown – when “we all sought refuge in the safest place we know.” It was hard, odd and almost unbelievable that from one day to another, we had to stop living as we were used to: no more big family meetings, travelling, going to work, or social gatherings – especially in bars and clubs, one of the main economic activities and tourist attractions of Berlin –. “How carefree we were when the city was ours and every stranger was a friend,” recalls the video voice-over.
The first days were the hardest for many people. As humans, we have a natural capacity to adapt to any environment and situation, and we’ve survived extremely difficult situations as a species. But nothing prepared us for this. “Trapped in a cocoon, we seek a kiss of life,” continues the voice-over. “I’ve become a ghost behind the wall. The echoes in a loop pulsing in my head. I’m not even sure the Earth is still revolving.”
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For Louis and Elliot, one of the hardest things was not knowing what would happen next and receiving confusing, even contradictory guidelines. “The media coverage was giving different advice, that was for us the most worrying stage – nobody knew what would happen to our elderly family members in France and the UK, and to not be able to go and see them,” they recall. “It was a weird feeling to imagine that borders could stay closed for an infinite period of time, only reminding us how it must’ve been in the past when countries were not open. It made us think about our privileges and how fragile they might be.”
The video reflects this mix of confusion, concern and nostalgia, which concludes with the protagonist longing for the old, free days – “I miss despising these long walks in the rain, nothing compares to being outside”. Just like the directors: “We both love nature, trekking and even fishing, and spending long hours on set or in front of the computer for postproduction. There is nothing like the smell of fresh air and feeling the sweet breeze on your face.”