Movie comment: Children of Men

Yesterday I went to see Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of men. I have to mention first that I did not read the book by P.D. James on which the movie is based.
The story opens in England in 2027. All other countries have collapsed, claims a giant electronic poster, and only England soldiers on.
Cuaron’s adaptation is not didactic. There is no explaining in the movie on what is really going on, as in Spielberg's sci-fi movies for example. But if you know what is going on in the news worldwide, you don’t need an introduction to the story. Because of this, the movie is realistic. It is a political statement on the state of Humanity. There are no flying cars, no extraordinary buildings and gadgets, no strange creatures, only human beings devoured by anxiety, hopelessness, boredom, and a dark future.

We understand later that an advertised drug called Quietus is recommended for suicide. The realism of the movie is such that the line of advertisement is that of any other product, it gives the consumer the illusion of free will and choice. The subtitle of the advertisement is ‘You decide when’. Cuaron’s realism comes from the fact that instead of focusing on gadgets, he focuses on Humans. And some Humans basic features, when taken at the population level, do not seem to change over time. They are emotional, they are greedy, they are irrational and they are violent. Violence is the main theme of the movie. But it is confronted with birth, renewal, and innocence…

The Humanity in 2027 is in a terrible state, a chaotic state very close to what people are experiencing in some parts of the world actually. There are cattle and birds epidemics, environmental catastrophes, collapsing states, wars, and massive migrations, and to top all of this, women have become infertile. The last birth was 18 years ago in Brazil but the person who was born 18 years ago had just died, and the whole world is mourning his death. Inside England, there seems to be some order imposed by the state but it is being resisted and fought by many groups with divergent interests. The country had closed its frontiers to refugees and we wee in the movie illegal immigrants transported in cages toward camps where they are kept under strict army and police control. On the way, they are beaten, humiliated, and killed, for some of them. A man, who lost a baby he had with a woman in the resistance and was consequently estranged by her, will be asked to accompany an 18 year old illegal refugeepregnant girl across the burning and dangerous land to the safety of ‘The Human Project’.

The highlight of the movie is in the final scenes when we witness a birth, a street fight, the bombing of a civilian building where resitants are trapped by the army, and the final deliverance for some. All this happens in an area where the government had imprisoned opponents and immigrants, bombing them regularly or whenever the tension becomes unbearable. The battle scenes were crudely filmed, there was no warning as to the explosion of the bombs or the bombing of a building inhabited by illegal immigrants and resistants ‘terrorists’ who fight for their rights and for a different vision of the country. The line is blurred between fiction and real life. Some of the scenes resembled what we witness everyday on TV screens from the streets of Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza. There was a protest with chants ‘Allah Akbar’ from Muslim immigrants. There were women in the streets crying over the dead bodies of their relatives fighters, sons and husbands, as in Gaza. There were inscriptions on the walls of the word ‘Intifada’ in Arabic.
What struck me most in the movie is the fact that Humanity knew that it was going to its end. Twenty years of infertility are what is needed for the extinction of the species, a lengthy extinction of course. But people were fighting each other anyway. Suddenly it occurred to me that violence, always present in human societies, did not in fact increase over time, but did however invade our minds. We are not more violent than our ancestors, but we are more committed to violence, we cannot live without it, even though we know that we will all be dying in a near future. And the reason why violence has invaded our mind is that in the presence of danger we don’t look for solutions, we fight.

Is the earth warming up and threatening some of our resources? Why bother finding solutions? Better fight within the new context to keep our privileges without changing our way of life. Are we going to die as a species because of real threats? Why bother trying to find solutions when we can fight to keep going on according to our own way and at the expanses of other individuals, groups, countries and the entire species? Why bother finding a solution to our energy needs when we can go to Iraq, fight and kill more than 200000 people in three years? And why bother finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when we can fight for sixty years, and keep going, in order to grab more land, kill more people, strip the others from their rights, kill hope, divide people, radicalise them in groups fighting each other, putting their regions on fire, and diminishing, every day, the prospects for peace while extending wars?

Even though we are not committed to find a solution to women’s infertility, the movie tells us that many groups will be fighting around the miracle baby, who was incidentally born, to make him their own, and not the baby of Humanity, and not the baby of the whole species. What is the significance of birth, innocence, love, and renewal in a world that surrendered to violence? It is better not to be born. Humanity is alarmingly disappointing, and can be even more disappointing, as biologists tell us, than other animal groups, where sometimes individuals will give up on their own survival instincts in order to contribute to the survival of their own species.
We came out of the movie, all the four of us, my husband and my children, hoping that the movie was after all about fiction. But sadly it isn’t.


Bedouina said...

We just came back from seeing this film. It was very intense, very difficult emotionally. The final firefight did make me think of Israel in Gaza, with the tanks in the street firing on the apartment building, and the resistance fighters shooting back, men who we already know are murderers themselves.

Afterward I got into a kind of argument with my friend's husband about "Islamofascists". He believes the phenomenon is real and I just was dismissing it all as propaganda. Well who knows what we're really arguing about. Basically I'm not afraid of Islamic fundamentalists harming me. I'm not afraid of Hizbullah. If I were in Iraq I'd be afraid - of everybody - but the ideology doesn't scare me. I think there's a propaganda push to get Americans to think "Islamofascism", as preparation for war with IRan.

It's really sad. I am very concerned about the future.

The movie was excellent. Heartbreaking (I kept calculating how old my children would be - 27 and 26 in the time of the film)

Sophia said...


What is frightening is that some parts of the world live already like that. I hope that these parts of the world will serve as a warning for every citizen so your children and the children of my children may not experience this in 2027.

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