Cast: Clive Owen, Claire Hope-Ashitey, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Charlie Hunnam
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
Written by Alfonso Cuaron, David Arata, Timothy J. Sexton, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby and P.D. James
For many of us, in time such as these when the future looks uncertain, films fulfil their role in our lives as escapism – a distraction from the unparalleled situation that we now find ourselves in. For others, times like these require an indulgence into the more post-apocalyptic world of cinema. If that’s the case for you, there may be no better film than Alfonso Cuaron’s 2006 masterpiece, ‘Children of Men.’
We lay our scene in 2027 Britain, a decaying society that has found its downfall in humanity’s seeming inability to reproduce. The youngest person on the planet is eighteen, and for everyone else the future looks uncertain. Our anchor to this world rests upon the shoulders of political bureaucrat Theo Faron (Clive Owen), whose past surrounds itself more with the chaotic world of protests and riots. When he finds himself reunited with an old flame, the future of humanity is thrust upon him in the form of a pregnant young woman, and it becomes Theo’s sole purpose to ensure the woman and her child safely reach the enigmatic utopia of The Human Project.
For Cuaron, the narrative presented within his work never seems to be told directly from any exposition or dialogue, but rather the world of his films. It’s the cinematography and set design in ‘Children of Men’ that truly demonstrate the world in a more successful way than any dialogue ever could. A theme throughout most of his work, the way that his camera seems to get lost within the worlds of ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ or ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’ provides a subjectivity to his work that allows for an insight into how the world plays out, even when no recognisable characters are present.
It’s undeniable that the apocalyptic state of the world within this film is messy. The background of every shot is cluttered, and the score appears to be derived almost entirely from songs that the characters play themselves, as well as the chaotic noise of their surroundings. Furthermore, the film doesn’t fall into the convention of maintaining one group of people who stay together to protect the precious cargo for the entire journey. People die, people can’t be trusted and people get lost in the mess of a world falling apart.
It’s very clear that every moment of ‘Children of Men’ has been particularly designed to convey some greater message that cannot always be articulated through language. In the music of Radiohead’s ‘Life in a Glasshouse’ and King Crimson’s ‘Court of the Crimson King’ we find reference to two periods of music that focus on an explicit message. The former provides an insight into the world’s more contemporary political climate, and the latter an examination of the tyranny that King Crimson were so infatuated with during the creation of their progressive sound in the 1960’s. Furthermore, the presence of an inflatable floating pig in one particularly scene, where a power station lies in the background, harks back to Pink Floyd’s 1977 album ‘Animals.’ Itself a take on George Orwell’s earlier novel ‘Animal Farm,’ this allows for reference to Stalin’s soviet reign over Russia from the 20’s to the 50’s – itself an examination of tyranny – and mirrors the role that the government have played within the world of ‘Children of Men.’
To conclude, though ‘Children of Men’ may not be the most uplifting film to watch during our current situation, I do believe it to be an important watch, demonstrating how in times of need, we must be there for one another. More than just an exploration into a fantasy world, the film serves to inform the viewer on how we are shaped by what it is we do for others – a true demonstration of just how powerful this medium can be.