Vagrant Journalism

Published pieces from the past, the present and of the potential future.

24 April 2007: Movie Review – Children of Men

Posted by Christina on March 5, 2009

365863867_d3dd990ce6_oI took a Literary Journalism seminar called Arts Criticism where we basically honed our skills in writing about various forms of art. I was excited about this class because with the New U, I was essentially doing just that. There’s a difference, however, and by the end of this class I had not only honed my skill in arts criticism but it gave me a new way of approaching the writing I did for the New U.

Movie Review: Children of Men

Since our brains could grasp the concept of civics, we’ve been taught the trials and tribulations of governments gone awry. We all read the likes of 1984 and Animal Farm in high school, most likely, and learned about how societies crumble underneath a flawed rule. We also learned about rebellion and in going through each of our awkward teen years experienced our own form one way or another. Most importantly, we’ve watched through the symbolic gesture of all forms of art media what may befall societies that have been ripped apart and their rebellion against each form of the man.

More recently, we find these themes in films like V for Vendetta and perhaps even The Island where a utopian society has been driven apart by a government that was supposed to take care of them. In Children of Men, the idea of the failed supposed perfect society is revamped in a modern yet dilapidated version of Great Britain. The prospect of a new generation has been completely eradicated with a global infertility that has lasted for nearly two decades. Even with a society that has come as far as it has with technological advances and may have at one time held a positive outlook towards better living situations finds itself feeling as if the end of the world has already come. No one bothers with the streets and everyone leads a bleak life of nothingness and protesters feel rejected by their gods. This is where we experience a real post-apocalyptic world where the true meaning of the end of the world has arrived.

Clive Owen plays Theo Faron, a strange sort of everyman, whose character has been tossed into a pit of despair with the rest of the world, except he’s now become apathetic and numb to his surroundings. It’s not until a cathartic event works as a catalyst to whirl him out of his accepted catatonic state. It gets to the point where while the weight of worldwide losses leave him an apathetic spirit, his personal losses of friendship and love yield real tears. Eventually, Theo accepts his role in this greater scheme of things as his eyes are widened to the reality of Kee, played by Claire-Hope Ashitey, a young refugee-in this future era’s definition of the term-who literally carries the key to the solution of the world’s problems within her. It’s symbolic also that Owen’s character should be named Theodore, considering the name means “gift from God.” After the given circumstances, he ends up being the only thing that can carry Kee to the destination that will ultimately help her and in turn, help the world.

The vision of director Alfonso Cuarón is quite clear with the excellent chemistry between him and his excellent team, he’s able to accurately execute his ideas. Quite revolutionary in his own work, his style of filmmaking is innovative and original at best. Apart from the actual narration and plot structure of the film, Cuarón’s editing is absolutely vital to an overall mantra of excellence upheld throughout his filmmaking. Key to his style is the single, fluid and long take where Cuarón says he “takes advantage of the element of real time.” These action sequences are heavily orchestrated and rehearsed, showcasing a sort of documentary style filmmaking for the effect of realism.

Cuarón has even gone as far as to invent his own machinery to capture these long-winded sequences. In particular, the scene where Theo and Julian escape with Kee in the car for the first time was crucial for the rest of the movie as it served as the pivotal moment where plans A through Z seem already used up and thwarted. With the assistant director, stunt coordinator and special effects coordinator, they created a sophisticated rig to pivot a camera around the inside of the car to film all the actions happening on all sides all the while focusing on each of the characters during their most heightened emotive moments.

With Cuarón’s stream of consciousness style of filming we get single, long stretches of filming with no break keys into certain aspects of the scene. You wouldn’t otherwise pay attention to these things, like hand gestures, feet positioning and peripheral movements of animals and other seemingly unimportant aspects of the environment. This enhances the reality factor where instead of cutting from line delivery to line delivery, the entire area is panned. The audience is taken through a visual trip as well rather than a dry presentation of plot that is more scenically involved. We follow Theo as he runs through ruins of an abandoned port town, shaking as he trips over rubble and garbage. Technically, we know the camera rolls around Owen on a shaky dolly. Further, Cuarón breaks the fourth wall by pulling the audience in with the characters as they’re followed around during these long takes. Only with blood splatters glistening in tiny red droplets on the lens does the audience jump back to the reality of their position as audience, not a member of the on-screen action.

There’s something in the raw, visceral reality of the film that humbles the audience allowing themselves to be taken in by the film. The saturated earth tones and natural lighting are all too perfect yet accurately orchestrated. Everything falls into place with Cuarón’s films so well yet so seamlessly that none of it looks or feels forced. From the deliberate naming of his characters to match their personas to the way he shoots the scene to the setting and environment he films in, everything comes together to create this otherworldly view of society at the heels of hope with little bit despair and misery to hold on to. The gravity of the film is so gargantuan yet is delivered by way of a baby only hours-old, wherein we find the perfect and most sensible juxtaposition perhaps in the history of art themes.


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