Films about post-apocalypse (the world after the end of the world) resemble a nightmare, but this is also a paradox: the more bleak the fictional picture, the more attractive it looks. Fans of this genre are attracted by a new reality that is very different from the usual. Here, instead of spending time in traffic jams every day and going to work, you need to survive – to escape from aliens or zombies, look for and build shelters, get food.
But you can get away from everyday life in other ways: go as a volunteer to tropical countries or move to the mountains, where there will be no city bustle. However, a change of place of residence or type of activity, even if it promises a departure from boring everyday life, but keeps life in its usual form – with rules and morality.
A world of children without adults
The situation of post-apocalypse on film rather symbolizes a return to the primitive order, where the laws of savages operate. In particular, in such a world where everyone sets the rules himself, the heroes of the “Water World” or “The Book of Eli” find themselves.
“The post-apocalyptic plot is very similar to our unconscious,” explains psychoanalyst Tatyana Panichkina. – This is a place where laws do not work: you need to survive in it and you can do as you want. This is a world of children without adults. “
In ordinary life, we often suppress impulses emanating from the unconscious, and behave according to the requirements of society. On the other hand, post-apocalyptic fantasy makes it possible, at least for a short time, to release pent-up emotions – for example, allow yourself to be rude and sometimes cruel.
Tatiana Panichkina also mentions the “father’s law”, which exists in the psychoanalytic paradigm: parents set the rules, and we are forced to obey them. Modern civilization is becoming a kind of embodiment of this law – we live in a society where our actions are strictly regulated. “And the post-apocalypse is just a story about the fact that there are no more laws, you can“ kill your father ”and do what you want, live without the law,” comments Tatyana Panichkina.
Face your worries and fears
Although post-apocalyptic films show a fictional world, it can reflect fears and anxieties that are very real.
So, often we are afraid to show feelings. It seems to us that it is worth releasing them, they will become dangerous and harm us and others. As a result, in order to prevent quarrels, we restrain the experience inside. It is this idea that underlies the film Equilibrium, where feelings are forbidden in order to avoid wars and conflicts.
Dystopia “Equals” – another version of the world without feelings. After the war, which practically destroyed humanity, people built a new society. This world appears to be ideal, but showing emotion or making physical contact is considered dangerous. Watching heroes who first lost their feelings, and then found them again, we live our own story inside ourselves.
“A film about post-apocalypse can also be a territory of safe fear,” says Tatiana Panichkina. While watching, you can get really scared and then feel relieved. Amusement park amusement rides provide a similar effect.
“Such stories are also in demand because they are not only scary, but also comforting,” the psychologist emphasizes. “We are watching the stories not of those who died, but of those who survived and are struggling.” Whatever the true cause of our anxiety, we gain the illusion of control over reality when we watch the surviving heroes of the film or help escape a character in a video game.
When survival becomes the main concern, the heroes feel an adrenaline rush. And although we are not in danger, we become infected with their condition. Tatiana Panichkina notes: “The need to experience vivid emotions, to be frightened, and then breathe a sigh of relief helps to feel alive.”
Post-apocalyptic reality emphasizes the contrast with everyday life, especially if it has become too predictable and monotonous. “Only on the verge of death, when your life is hanging by a thread, can you feel truly alive,” adds the psychologist.
Thirst for revenge
In everyday life, we often complain about the injustice of the world order, but we do not always find the strength to change it. The fantasy of revenge is embodied, for example, in Rise of the Planet of the Apes: monkeys, who were previously kept in cages, break free. They are stronger than people and now they can themselves determine what the world will be like.
The thirst for revenge is usually followed by the fantasy of creating a new world, more prosperous and perfect. However, Tatyana Panichkina notes the illusory nature of such a plan: after all, turning the world into chaos, the post-apocalypse promises more lawlessness than the desired justice.
The post-apocalyptic plot is just an outer shell. Like any other, he is universal, and his fictional world gives free rein to our fantasies and fears. The more it captures and captivates, the more it touches us. This means that he tells not so much someone else’s story as our own.