Sunday, July 22, 2007

Children Of Men: Movie Review

"Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men."
Psalms 89:3

Recently, I listed the film of this post's title as a favorite movie. It asks questions: what value have our selfish genes, and the cultures they sprang from? Is their enshrinement worth the price of the world?

Well before I saw it, Bruce at The River Blog gave fair warning. Here was his run-down:
Basically, the new dystopian sci-fi thriller is a documentary.

For the battle scenes, substitute the urban warfare of Iraq.

For the scapegoating and caging of immigrants, substitute “terrorists” and Halliburton detention camps.

For the suicide drug Quietus, substitute Prozac.

For troops on the streets, substitute post-Katrina New Orleans or present-day Baghdad, or....

For The Uprising, substitute Hezbollah or Hamas.

For the infertility epidemic, substitute despair due to pollution, global warming, and the tyranny of elite scumbags.

For the pot-smoking, philosophizing Michael Caine, substitute you and me.

And for the birth, substitute the second coming, hope, and salvation, obviously.
Bruce's glowing review failed to completely dissuade Lord Wife and me from attending a showing as a comedic pick-me-up one Baby-Sitter Saturday night. Generically, Children of Men is a road movie spiced up by a spiritual quest welded into sci-fi and Grail sub-genres. My only sureties going in were that its Anti-Goodman, Clive Owen, had turned down the role of James Bond in Casino Royale to act in it, and that it would bring intellectual trouble. Verily, verily. It would try to suck the brains out of our heads. Which it did, and thus, it's hard to write about, forcing an examination of one's self as much as the movie.

The director of the Oscar-winning Y Tu Mama Tambien, Alfonso Cuaron, took a 1992 novel by the British writer P.D. James and turned it into a meditation on evolving United States and European Union foreign and domestic policies, and where they could lead. Cauron was the one doing the projecting, here, not me. He filmically considers the fate of his countrymen from Mexico in a North American future set in England which teems with refugee camps, sporadic resistance, general despair, rampant corporatism, blight, and horrifyingly sadistic Homeland Security. I would surmise Mr. Cauron is a highly intelligent and extremely well-read man, who has been searched in airports not a few. In his movie, immigration, racism, and salvation are not sub-plots. Rather, they serve as silver, holographic screens to catch and reflect the lights of his intended creation and give it full dimension.

The film was released on Christmas Day in North America, if that provides any clue, and is set in 2027 Britain after the world has undergone twenty years of complete infertility. Visually, the gritty, ground-breaking verisimilitudes provided by masterful 6 and 10-minute single-shot action scenes will influence film-makers everywhere. That brilliance is obvious, but the plot themes are too elusive and contemporary to easily codify. And if one thinks deeply about how the world might react to 20 straight years of infertility, his dystopic view is restrained, and simplified. It doesn't dwell on the Task Forces on Immortality such an occurrence would naturally call forth, to the breeding prizes, the international blame-storming, the superstitious potions quaffed and the rampant, reflexively irredentist violence which would ensue. Indeed, the movie begins by Clive Owen buying a latte in a Starbucks and narrowly missing its explosive demise by suicide bomber. If only Starbucks, absent new customers, could survive that long.

Practically, there are always pluses and minuses of high levels of immigration. People with no rights bring new blood, hoping to climb the ladder to a better life for their children, just as the forebears of almost all current US citizens did, just as immigrants into other countries. Many still carry the restless, adventurous gene denoted by the D4-7 allele, a perch on the genome which defines an exploratory, expansive, optimistic and sometimes transcending culture which successive waves of opportunist immigrants wrought. To quote the Bible again: "For Joseph is a fruitful bough, whose branches run over the wall." But what if this restless expansion, this heat sink of mania is stymied by suffocating foams of racism, and the optimistic expansion fizzles thereby? What if the doors of these migratory experiments are closed out of fear?

In Children of Men, the first woman to carry a child after 20 years of emptiness, Kee, is an illegal black immigrant from Africa. At the end of a heart-rending quest, the formerly privileged Clive Owens (Theo Faron) uses his body and soul to deliver and protect her baby, perhaps the savior of humanity. Having accomplished his task, Theo bleeds to death. He is glad, and it is no matter that Madonna and Son's skin tones are black as night. Having passed through roads of anarchy and cruelty, they bring hope of continuation and a chance for absolution the world has lacked.

Alfonso Cauron sees a brown future for America, a continuation of the melting pot with less and less emphasis on WASP rule. He recognizes that the transition will not go at all smoothly. Personally, being low on melatonin and easily freckled, I'm not sure how to feel about that. But my prejudices and preferences mean nothing, in the end. A mere continuance of our race should be enough for me. Human survival, should it be expressed in yellow, black, and brown, should give peaceful thoughts to even the denizens of die-off, the docents of, people like Dick and Lynne Cheney. After 20 years of barren wombs on this earth, no one would give a flying damn what skin color the first little baby had. It would be treated as a resurrected Savior, as is illustrated in the movie's final scenes, when the Baby is given safe passage and about to be picked up by a ship named Tomorrow.

Cauron's message is this: "Hey, gringos...survival should be enough for us all." At the very end of Children of Men, Kee the Black Madonna has the good grace to name her baby, her hours-old girl, after her dying Parsifal's son Dylan, who was long since lost. There are worse things than honor and memory.


ZOOLATRY said...

Thank you... extraordinary piece here speaking to an extraordinary film and novel.

MarcLord said...

Thank you, Maggy & Zoey, I am most grateful for your praise.