Art of Escapism: what to watch, listen to and read during lockdown

Beat your isolation frustration.

There used to be a guilty pleasure in staying at home and zoning out on the sofa. These days, increasingly large swathes of us are stuck at home for a very different purpose. And because self-isolating can be a lonely and often boring experience, we’ve put together some of our favourite books, TV shows, podcasts and films to help feed you with the much-needed inspiration to keep going.

This, of course, is our second such list. You can find the first here.

Feature Films
The Beach (2000)

A young Leonardo di Caprio heads off in search of an exotic, tantalizingly mysterious island somewhere in Thailand. They say it might be paradise. Properly speaking, this is Heart of Darkness territory, albeit reimagined as a 21st century gap year. Pulsating, sweaty, ominous and shocking, Danny Boyle’s masterpiece might even make you feel glad to be at home.

The Colour of Pomegranates (1969)

We’re putting this here because if there’s any time to bask in the florid, dizzying world of Sergei Parajanov, then it’s now. This 1969 film was banned in its native Georgia, before being sort of un-banned, re-cut, and released and banned again. Beautiful and otherworldly, it’s probably the perfect encapsulation of Caucasus culture; but also a perfect piece of visual escapism.

Amelie (2001)

Audrey Tautou takes a turn as whimsical, wide-eyed waitress Amelie in this (almost) care-free romp through a super romanticised Paris (which, in many senses of the word, is really the film’s main character). Charming, glad and indulgently cute, it’s hard to knock.

Documentary | Encounters at the End of the World (2007)

A stone-cold classic. German documentarian Werner Herzog travels to an Antarctic research station for a largely unspecified reason, meeting the (often very surreal) people who work and live there. He also has an encounter with a penguin going through an existential crisis. Equal parts beautiful and bizarre, this is one of the greatest – and weirdest – nature and travel documentaries ever filmed.

TV | Slow TV

Not a TV series per se, but we’ve been chaining hour after hour of Slow TV on YouTube. I recommend an entire journey filmed from the front cab of a train up into the Norwegian Arctic Circle. If you can’t go anywhere, you may as well pretend you can.

Book | The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

One of Russia’s most beloved books, this phantasmagorical novel by Mikhail Bulgakov offers undiluted escapism, even if it depicts a (somewhat relatable) period of trouble and turmoil. In it, the devil and his crew of rogueish acolytes visit Moscow to sew dismay and disorder. Things don’t quite go to plan, thanks to the Master (probably a thinly veiled version of Bulgakov himself). Darkly funny and deeply evocative, the Penguin Classics translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky does a really good job of conveying the blurry madness of Bulgakov’s original.

Post Geography, NTS Radio

We’re huge fans of this (sort of) regular show on London and LA-based NTS Radio. Presented by Mick Malkin, each episode is an exploration into ambient and atmospheric sound and music. The perfect soundtrack while you work from home.