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Children of Men Review

category national | arts and media | opinion/analysis author Monday September 25, 2006 16:08author by ronan - Illuminati - no really Report this post to the editors

Fascism, Infertility and the smallest violin in the world; Children of Men fails to deliver.

"The first sequence with Caine is what started me hating the whole thing, summing up the political depth of the implied critique by the soundtrack of Radiohead and the Beatles; might as well have namechecked George Monbiot while they were at it. "

Directed by stylish Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, Children of Men is is the latest in a series of dystopian visions of a totalitarian society that isn’t actually so far away. It’s a cheap buck that appeals to the “Oh gosh, isn’t George Bush awful?” Banksy appreciating market, but really that market should be bloody well ashamed of itself if it swallows this sort of shite. Children of Men begins with the premise that human beings can no longer reproduce, and since then the world has gone to shit something awful, or as they put it, ‘No children, no future, no hope.’ In the face of a totalitarian state, public loyalty is maintained by the criminalisation of foreigners and the odd bomb-blast. And aren’t we shocked when someone suggest that the bombers may actually be the government in disguise!! So far, so typical.

We step around these mean streets with Clive Owens who slots in as the stereotypical disillusioned former activist, sighing about the awfulness of it all as he sips his coffee and grieves over his long dead son. Michael Caine throws away what little dignity he had left by appearing as a bearded old hippy whose wife has been tortured into catatonia by MI5, for some reason (we assume it’s cos she’s a little bit left). In fact, the first sequence with Caine is what started me hating the whole thing, summing up the political depth of the implied critique by the soundtrack of Radiohead and the Beatles; might as well have namechecked George Monbiot while they were at it.

Owens’s little world is torn apart by the re-appearance of long lost lover Julian (played by Julianne Moore) who is now the leader of a group of terrorists/freedom fighters (with the catchy name of ‘the Fishes’) battling against the tyranny of the system, man. Julian, who luckily managed to take a GHD with her when she went underground, needs him to smuggle a refugee girl to somewhere for reasons undisclosed, he spends about half a second in inner turmoil before he signs up, and off they go. Unsurprisingly after a few pathetically contrived reminiscences about their good old days living in squats and taking ketamine, they get back to eating the faces off each other with abandon.

Before they can get gone they’re ambushed in the woods by a gang of eco-crusties who just do that sort of thing apparently. Julian gets herself shot and the gang retreat to a farm used as a safehouse by the aforementioned freedom fighters. Here it transpires that all is not as it seems (once again) and even the nice Fishes are not to be trusted. We also find out that the girl is pregnant, and as such is the hope for humanity and has to be carried away to some chaps called ‘The Human Project’. Clive decides that it’s time he took charge of the girl himself and off they go again.

What annoys me most about this film is its crude attempt to stroke every emotive button possible; (re)fugees in cages line the streets, a refugee camp becomes Belsen, becomes Abu Ghraib, becomes the Gaza Strip, with every emotional scene being ushered in by operatic sopranos holding the door as subtly as an applause sign in Jerry Springer. Real political critique is eschewed in favour of vacuous and cloying sentimentality, while the characters are so shallow we’re not at all disappointed when they pop their clogs in pointless displays of self sacrifice.

As a film it falls between two stools, on the one hand it could be an interesting sci-fi exploration of the consequences on society should people suddenly become infertile, and realise that their generation is the last. The other is the desperate attempt to turn science fiction into a vehicle for a vaguely leftist critique of the war on terror, and the growing tendency towards totalitarianism in the west. As for the first, all we really have is that things have gone to shit, and then some, since the discovery of human infertility, there’s some talk of state sponsored suicide but there’s no connection between infertility and the descent into fascism, other than some vague references to ‘despair’. If the movie is attempting to suggest how close we really are to fascism, it’s more or less bankrupted by its foundation on the fictional premise of infertility, while its desperate attempt to find emotive parallels with everything bad ever reflects an inability to deal with the realities of present day state control.

Fascism as brown shirts and jack-boots is dead as a method of state control, and in most parts of the world is confined to a few dozen over enthusiastic sentimentalists, new totalitarianisms are to control different societies and so will be different in form. By trotting out the same old cliches in a quest for shock value Cuarón maintains the narrow critique of fascism as something that does bad things to a certain group of people. While this part is no doubt crucial, and the transformation of Jews to Arabs and refugees is appropriate, in fascism this demonisation is part of the project of incorporating dissent into a united body politic. In Children of Men this half of the relationship is neglected in favour of a focus on the exclusionary aspects of fascism, even though New Labour’s renovation of social democracy would seem to offer much material for critique. Most of the movie takes place on the run from the law, so we don’t actually encounter the reality of daily life at all. Struggle instead of being crucial to the genesis of totalitarianism seems to be the sole preserve of various groups of lunatics more concerned with individual gain than any kind of progressive agenda. The only ‘goodies’ in the movie are the mysterious Human Project, which is some kind of an intellectual think tank, operating from a fishing trawler; it’s the perfect New Labour solution to totalitarianism. While V for Vendetta mangled the politics it was based on, it at least scored some points by hinting at the descent into fascism beginning with a government sponsored terrorist attack, and it had a charismatic lead character to pull us through the dull bits. Children of Men has neither of these, it’s a rather dull action movie masquerading as shallow political critique, masquerading as a poorly developed what if story, and should be scorned for the resultant nothing that it is.

author by Basespublication date Mon Sep 25, 2006 16:44Report this post to the editors

The Handmaid's Tale: Margaret Atwood (feminist perspective)
Both Movie and Book.

and

Huxley: Brave New World.

The Atwood Movie is very good.
Angela Carter does a good short Story on the same theme, also.

author by Frankpublication date Tue Sep 26, 2006 19:56Report this post to the editors

We don't need fantasy to make us scared.
Ellroy gives us the brutal reality.

Read "American Tabloid" or "Destination Morgue" or "The Big Nowhere" or "LA Noir."

He makes Frederick Forsyth and John Le Carre look like amateurs.

author by shipseapublication date Tue Sep 26, 2006 21:27Report this post to the editors

might there be a discrepancy between some of your interpretation and the things you describe?

It occurs that you may have been looking for something in the film that it was never pretending to offer - e.g.:

"If the movie is attempting to suggest how close we really are to fascism, it’s more or less bankrupted by its foundation on the fictional premise of infertility, while its desperate attempt to find emotive parallels with everything bad ever reflects an inability to deal with the realities of present day state control."

Why is it bankrupted by the premise of infertility? Typically, awareness of impending disaster tends to bring out the worst in people. The end of the human race would frighten people very badly if they knew they were the last ones. From what you describe the film wasnt actually supposed to be about the realities of present day state control, but a projection into the future of where present day realities are likely to take us?

But I aint seen it, so what would I know.

author by Ciaronpublication date Wed Sep 27, 2006 00:45Report this post to the editors

Well Raymond and I enjoyed the flick.

After the scenes on indy at the Board of Immigration last week where an African mother of six was roughed up by security as her son was shanghaied to Lagos without money or baggage, this movie didn't seem to far fetched! The Brirish soldier on the bus was pretty familiar from previous interactions, the Greenham type midwife doing the Tai Chi was great. The infighting in resistance groups as well.

Dystopian literature such as Vonegut's "Player Piano" from his post war work with General Electric, Orwell's "1984", Huxley's "Brave New World"- all worth a read and a dwell on just where we are we going as a society.

The book on which the film was based was written by a Conservative Anglican woman (I guess that's where the "Holy Family" fleeing into exile imagery comes from as the film develops) adapted by liberal left movie makers makes for an interesting mix of themes.

Well worth it...go see it. This is what Ireland could evolve into should the war we fuel at Shannon regretably come home to a disengaged public. Internment for refugees fleeing war zones we helped to create (pretty much the scene & policies that gets Australian governments elected for the past 10 years) would be just around the corner as folks panic and look for Big Brother to step in, dissidents will be viewed as fellow travellers. And a celebration of humanity as resitance even breaks out amongs the jaded burnt out radical main character is comforting. Go see this film for a preview.

author by bernardpublication date Wed Sep 27, 2006 01:54Report this post to the editors

you seem to be confusing cinema with your politics homework.

author by A10publication date Wed Sep 27, 2006 13:14Report this post to the editors

I'll save my money and get some other bubblegum for the mind.Sounds like absolute crap,.

author by popFreakpublication date Wed Sep 27, 2006 13:33author address GrogansReport this post to the editors

If you like good theoritcal and politacal criticism,
On everything from The Fall to X-man Movies Via A. Hitchcock to Ziziek, Deleuze and Guattari to Gibson
Check out K-Punk : he's yer only man.

Related Link: http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/
author by PopFreakpublication date Wed Sep 27, 2006 13:35Report this post to the editors

http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/

author by Stevepublication date Sat Oct 07, 2006 18:15Report this post to the editors

I went to see this film expecting to see a futuristic gritty sci fi flic.. What I got was a warning of where society is going and sometimes even gone.. Its a possible future one we should all pay attenton to because the people involved in making this film have used todays political landscape and government open door policy and exaggerated ..BUT not that Much.. This is a great fiml and we need more Political comment like this even if some people disaprove it sends a message to society and government YOUR watching us were watching you..

BUT beyond the political comment it was gripping some great moments I loved the bit where they were pushing the car and she let the clutch out to soon that is SOO Typical and the bit where he laid out the bloke.. Felt that.. some beautiful inspiring cinematography not fill the picture with bits n bobs but filled with history character and all the more real for it..

The best bit was the Acting though that suited the feel and was a bridge for the subject matter and the political comment ..

I was a little disapointed by the ending I would like to have seen a happy one I like happy endings If the kid had united the world that world have been a great resolution.. AND then the hero died?

A fantastic film..

author by to the authorpublication date Mon Oct 09, 2006 02:09Report this post to the editors

Your review is fascist you condemn the film because the filmakers do not share your political idealogy, how dare they make a film that intrudes on your political philosophy without agreeing with it. Shame on you, a film can be good, entertaining, fun etc without agreeing with your agenda. By decrying the films politics you are announcing that your are not interesting in literature, cinema, or art that disagrees with you, you are only happy when presented with your own brand of propaganda.

The film is excellent while I'm not while on the corporations own anarchist Banksy's heavy infulence, I thought Peter Mullen's performance was a scene stealer. The symbolism was a tad heavy handed (the Hamas funeral the use of the alcoholic's whiskey to sterlise his hands, I thought the action the pace and drama was briliant. Amazing art direction brave set pieces and well performed.

As I said you seek propaganda to confirm your worldview, heaven forbid someone could look at the world through different eyes than yours.

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