Fiction writer Etgar Keret spoke this week with Times of Israel Culture Editor Jessica Steinberg for the Behind the Headlines online video series about his latest project, “Outside,” a short, 8-minute film inspired by COVID-19.
The film, a collaboration with choreographer Inbal Pinto, is based on Keret’s 500-word short story of the same name. “Outside” was published in The New York Times Magazine for a special project in which 29 authors wrote short stories inspired by COVID-19 and by Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron,” which was famously written in plague-ravaged 14th century Florence.
“Outside” is a fantastical, Alice-in-Wonderland look into life during the pandemic, and what it might be like to set foot outside once it’s all over. Acted — and danced — without words, it tells the story of the early days of the pandemic, when people stayed home, shut in their homes, with baking flour and television for company. You can watch the film here.
Keret said he wrote the story the first day after the coronavirus closure was over, when he fantasized about life returning to normal. But when he ventured outside, he realized that nothing was as he expected it to be.
“I realized that nothing was like my fantasy,” said Keret. “I went home after 10 minutes outside.”
After the story was published in The New York Times Magazine, Keret and Pinto began to collaborate on the film. The duo handled every detail, from raising money for the project to painting furniture for the set.
“It was a first for me in many ways,” said Keret, who has had more than 100 films made based on his books and stories. “But the best collaboration comes from working with people who are very different from you.”
The film is a fairytale with a dark, allegorical element, and differs from the original story, acknowledged Keret.
He’s continued to write about the pandemic in recent months, probably because “there’s something looming back there,” he said.
“There is something about the pandemic that neutralizes the force of inertia,” said Keret. “We don’t get up and do what we did before, we need to reinvent ourselves every day.”
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