Children of Men

Children of Men (2006) movie poster

(2006) dir. Alfonso Cuarón
viewed: 01/15/07  at Century San Francisco Center

Children of Men is less Science Fiction (though it takes place in the year 2027) and more Social Fiction.  It’s certainly less about technology and science and much more about the direction that humanity might take in the coming years.  Directed by Alfonso Cuarón who is most notable for Y tu mamá también (2001) but more recnetly also Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), the film has a polish and certain power throughout, showing a strong hand from the director.

However, the hand is not just strong, but heavy, and the messages about the treatment of immigrants in England (and all over Europe) is extrordinarilly pointed to extreme degrees, with images that clearly reckon of WWII Nazi concentration camps and at least once, quite explicitly, of images from Abu Ghraib prison and the current political climate.  The word that comes to mind is “portenous”.  To grab quite crudely from an online dictionary, http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/portentous, “self-consciously solemn or important”, just to clarify that I am using it correctly.

The whole thing is heavy and doom-ridden.  But for some reason, it doesn’t really hit home.  The narrative doesn’t reek of importance, only self-importance.  And so even though there are some striking sequences, usually of the violence, and the fact that the performances are all fine, it just simply wasn’t as significant as it aims to be.

There are lots of Biblical metaphors, so explicit that the narrative has to debunk them.  The story is about how in the future all women become infertile and that no babies have been born in 18 years, then out of nowhere, a woman becomes pregnant and the baby has a Christ-like effect on those who view it.  When the woman’s pregnancy is first exposed, it is in a barn, echoing the birth of Jesus.  But the woman jokes about the possibility of it being a virgin birth, drawing clear attention to the metaphors.  It is also significant, perhaps from a more biological angle, that the woman who is pregnant is of African decsent, recalling the genetic traces back to the African “Eve.”

All in all, I am not sure where it is going with this, but for a brief moment, the baby stops the violence.  I guess perhaps the movie is meaning to leave itself open-ended a bit.  What is the power and significance of this child?  What will it mean?  Though many want to capitalize on it for political reasons, where will it go?  It’s semi-interesting, I guess, but not as compelling and important as it seems to find itself.

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