Documentation in the ARD: Corona in shock waves

“We have good reasons to be confident that the twenties of the 21st century, which will begin in a few hours, can become good years,” said Chancellor Merkel in her New Year’s address on New Year’s Eve 2019. At this point in time, the first reports of a new corona virus were coming from China that is said to be transmitted from animals to humans. Only a few weeks later, metropolises there are cordoned off. Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn says at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the situation is being monitored and that we are preparing accordingly. Shortly afterwards, the first cases are registered in Bavaria. There is still some swaying on the Rose Monday parade in Cologne.

Wuhan, Webasto, Heinsberg, Gangelt, Mount Sinai Hospital, Anthony Fauci, Karl-Josef Laumann, Bergamo, Christian Drosten, Tönnies – the pandemic has made us familiar with companies, places and names that were one and a half years ago in the lives of many people played a subordinate role. In his documentary “Shock waves – news from the pandemic”, Volker Heise cuts news, reports, talk shows, live broadcasts and video blogs together and uses them to trace the history of the corona pandemic from January 2020 until today: empty shelves with toilet paper in Supermarket stand. Trucks jam at the borders. Overworked ICU staff report how patients die lonely. Aerial photos of freshly dug Brazilian grave fields. In Berlin, lateral thinkers attack the police; in India the crematoria are overcrowded.

The images of this pandemic are likely to have burned themselves into many people’s minds. Volker Heise mercilessly strings them together and recapitulates the pandemic in just under ninety minutes. Its chronological narrative style, in which dates and places are briefly faded in, is sometimes reminiscent of a year in review. One pandemic climax macabre chases the next. She sews “shock waves” together into an exceptional event. The first pandemic in the digital age is unfolding on our screens in real time. The documentation makes use of the martial imagery of lined up coffins and people crying in despair. The pictures themselves are not new, but they have never been seen in such a concentrated manner.


Without a single player and spokesperson, “shock waves” hold up a mirror to society without comment and show us driven by the shock waves of the pandemic: Politicians have to react to a lack of masks and hotspots, they make wrong decisions. A mother collapses crying in front of her computer because she doesn’t know how to reconcile homeschooling and home office: “I can’t do any of that. That’s so much. ”A doctor in full protective gear briefly transmits the news of a man’s death to relatives on the phone. In the pandemic, everyone fights on their own.

Volker Heise already seems to want to draw this pandemic summary. Will we look back on this time like this? In order to protect the elderly and the sick, the vast majority have long accepted restrictions on public life. Shopping services for grandparents and seemingly endless zoom conferences may seem unspectacular compared to the pandemic milestones shown, but they were an expression of great solidarity. This representation does not do justice to the performance of the staff in the intensive care units. Dealing with the pandemic does not represent “shock waves” as an effort for society as a whole. This creates a moralizing collage of misery.

The question also arises: isn’t it too early to look back? Shops and restaurants have only recently opened again. Many are still waiting for a vaccination appointment. And people in Germany still die of Covid-19 every day. Virologists warn that the highly contagious Delta variant will soon determine the infection process. An end to the pandemic is not yet in sight. It is too early to take stock. Perhaps the documentation should be read better as a warning testimony to previous errors in dealing with the coronavirus. It shows those who are now calling for further opening steps, where we could end up in the colder months.

The ARD shows Shock waves – news from the pandemic today at 10:50 p.m.

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