Sunday, February 11, 2007


Currently in theaters is one of the best dystopian films I’ve seen in years. Based on a novel by P.D. James CHILDREN OF MEN is simply stunning in its cinematic power with every shot, camera angle and moment of screen time used to near perfection. It riveted me like nothing I’ve seen in some time. Maybe I’m just overly susceptible to these kinds of apocalyptic scenarios but I have to admit that this film brought me to tears on at least three occasions. On every level I found it to be amazing and I could hardly wait to discuss the film with others. But much to my shock the two friends who had seen the film before me casually dismissed the film as ‘good but nothing special’ and ‘OK’. I could hardly believe my ears! I had been sure that a story this intense and so filled with emotion would have affected others in the same way. Perhaps not to the weeping extent I had been, but more than the lukewarm toss-offs I was hearing.

Wondering what the general critical response to the film was led me to an odd critique of the film that fascinated me much more than the back & forth of arguing the movie’s cinematic worth. From the perspective of a serious science fiction fan this fellow complains that the English government would have acted in the opposite way as portrayed in CHILDEN OF MEN. He insists that they would have instead forcing all illegal foreigners out of the country they would try desperately to attract young people from around the planet to bolster their economy. He backs up his opinion with the fact that this is what the novel lays out. His belief is that this misstep cripples the film. Hogwash!

As even he admits the concentration camps and forced expulsions are meant to be a commentary on the current state of ‘Homeland Security’ in the United States he seems not to have noticed his argument fails because of those recent events. His opinion overlooks the basic, terrifying fears of a population in such a nightmare scenario. I’m reminded of the old bit of sad wisdom that a person is smart but people are stupid and easily swayed by fear. The very possible end point of this being that any politician hoping to not be dragged out into the streets would be tempted to get out in front of such a wave of terror stoked hatred. It’s very easy to imagine the speeches railing against the contaminating influence of ‘the other’ used to maintain political power. Indeed the one scene of a government leader shows us someone much above the horror of the world around him. When asked how he copes with the fact that in 50 years everyone on the planet will be dead he sighs and says “I just don’t think about it’. This is a weak man capable of doing terrible things to maintain his place. All you have to do is look around today to see just such sad pandering masquerading as leadership. And to posit that a government would be able control such a situation in the way he describes is (I think) being overly optimistic if not silly.

I do agree with the writer on his points about the filmmakers’ removal of the strong religious aspects of the book. The lack of maniacal religious fervor in a large part of the population is something I would expect in the situation presented. This might be seen as a weakness or flaw but I can see also how including this would have made keeping the film’s complex story under control very difficult. Adding some religious content might have made the actions of some characters more understandable but I never found motivation to be a problem in the film. And it might have even been a distraction from the important ideas being shown through harsh action onscreen.

Well, I’ve run afield when I started out to simply praise this excellent film. I urge others to see it so that one day I’ll be able to find someone touched as deeply by it as I was. I hope!

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