January 7, 2007 [Children of Men]



 I think Children of Men was shot with digital cameras—it has that clean look, everything clear, each clod of earth arcing in unsmeared trajectory. I'm not sure, though—but that long sequence when they escape the farm, an unbroken shot—as so many of them are in this movie—of growing tension and light, from pre-dawn to day, for a while made me forget what the movie was about: The light was so perfect, like Millard Sheets' painting of a train station, all buttery gold and blue and serious blacks.  Again, if this was shot without film, Children of Men speaks well of the new medium.


The movie itself has its own clean darkness, the kind of tale John Brunner knew so well, the late-'60s-early-'70s dystopian despair of Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up taken one step farther, into a fable of a world where no more children are being born, the West sliding into casual fascism, the global community at last united by tragedy.

—But there is no "superordinate goal," no Independence Day Enemy from Space for us to rally against. Like something out of Cronenberg, this apocalypse comes from within, and the barren species begins a last long period of mourning.

—But unlike Brunner's methodical punishments, Children of Men moves toward hope, in the end more Star Trek than A Boy and His Dog. A child is born, and sacrifices are willingly made for it—yes, in fog and choppy waters, but out of the gloom decent hearts shine.  Along the way the movie (once more: beautifully) acts as a travelogue for The End, with Michael Caine's benign counter-culturalist and sundry jackbooted and babushka'd hindrances and helps. I'm glad that science fiction occasionally gets to be itself at the movies, something more than sparks and monsters.

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