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Children of Men

Children of Men is a 2006 dystopian science fiction film co-written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. It was loosely adapted from P. D. James's 1992 novel of the same name by Cuarón and Timothy J. Sexton with help from David Arata, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby. It stars Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Claire-Hope Ashitey, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Caine.

Set in the United Kingdom of 2027, the film explores a grim world in which two decades of global human infertility have left humanity with less than a century to survive. Societal collapse, terrorism, and environmental destruction accompany the impending extinction. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom—perhaps the last functioning government—persecutes a seemingly endless wave of illegal immigrant refugees seeking sanctuary. In the midst of this chaos, Theo Faron (Clive Owen) must find safe transit for Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), a pregnant African refugee.

The film was released on 22 September 2006, in the UK, 19 October 2006, in Australia and on 25 December 2006, in the U.S., critics noting the relationship between the Christmas opening and the film's themes of hope, redemption, and faith. Described as a companion piece to Cuarón's Y tu mamá también (2001), both films examine contemporary social and political issues through the epic journey of the road film.

Children of Men was recognised for its achievements in screenwriting, cinematography, art direction, and innovative single-shot action sequences, receiving three Academy Award nominations and winning two BAFTA awards.

Plot summary

The film is set in the year 2027. Due to an unexplained infertility pandemic, no human children have been born in any part of the world for more than eighteen years. The world has descended into chaos with most governments in the world collapsing, leaving the United Kingdom as one of the sole organised societies. Consequently, millions of refugees ("fugees") have flooded into the country seeking asylum. As a result of the influx, the British government has become a militarised police state. The British Army occupies the streets and forcefully detains all 'illegal immigrants' and suspected sympathisers.

When the movie opens, hard-drinking Theo (Owen), an activist turned apathetic bureaucrat, is buying coffee in a crowded coffee shop. There, he learns that the world's youngest human, an eighteen-year-old known as "Baby Diego", has been stabbed to death in Buenos Aires for refusing to sign an autograph. As Theo leaves the café on Fleet Street, a bomb explodes, destroying the coffee shop and killing numerous passers-by. The government attributes the attack to the Fishes, an underground resistance group advocating the rights of "every immigrant in Britain". Shaken, Theo visits his friend, Jasper Palmer (Caine), a former editorial cartoonist and aging hippie. Jasper lives in a secluded hideaway in the countryside and spends his time growing cannabis and caring for his catatonic wife, a former photojournalist tortured by the government.

Upon his return to London, Theo is kidnapped by the Fishes, who are led by his estranged wife Julian Taylor (Moore). Theo is surprised and happy to see her as they broke up shortly after Dylan, their young son, died during the flu pandemic of 2008. Julian offers Theo £5,000 in exchange for his help in obtaining a travel permit for a young African girl named Kee (Ashitey). Initially ambivalent, Theo decides to obtain the permits, as well as escort Kee in exchange for more cash. He visits his cousin Nigel (Huston), a government minister and curator of a repository for rescued art, who arranges for the papers, with the stipulation that Theo must accompany Kee.

The trip begins, and Luke (Ejiofor), a member of The Fishes, drives Theo, Kee, Julian, and Miriam (Ferris), a midwife, toward the first security checkpoint. They are ambushed by a group of renegades before they arrive, and Julian is fatally shot in the neck. The police soon follow but are distracted and then killed by Luke. The group then escapes to a safe house. With Julian dead, Luke is appointed the new leader of the Fishes.

Kee reveals to Theo that she is pregnant with the first child in nearly two decades, telling him that Julian told her that she should only trust Theo. She also tells him that Julian had intended to take Kee to the Human Project, a mysterious group of scientists dedicated to curing infertility. With Julian dead, however, Luke proposes keeping Kee with the Fishes, and she chooses to stay until after the baby is born. Theo suggests that the group go public with the information about Kee's baby, but the Fishes argue that Kee's baby will be taken by the government and used for its benefit.

Just before dawn, Theo awakens to overhear Luke and other high ranking members of the Fishes heatedly discussing the incident that killed Julian. Theo sees the broken motorcycle that was ridden by Julian's killers, and it comes to light that her death was a planned operation, so that the Fishes would be able to use Kee's baby as a political tool. Theo wakes Kee and Miriam and they steal a car and escape to Jasper's house. At Jasper's, Miriam explains that the rendezvous with the Human Project's ship Tomorrow is scheduled at a buoy offshore from the Bexhill refugee camp. Jasper proposes a plan to smuggle them into the camp with the help of his friend and marijuana customer Syd, a guard at Bexhill.

After the Fishes discover Jasper's hideout, Theo, Miriam, and Kee escape with Jasper's help. Realising that his end is near, Jasper euthanises his wife. He refuses to reveal where Theo, Miriam, and Kee are, and is murdered by the Fishes. Theo and the group meet Syd (Mullan) at an abandoned school, and he drives them to Bexhill as faux-prisoners. When Kee begins having contractions while they are loaded onto a refugee bus and taken into the camp, Miriam distracts a suspicious guard from noticing Kee's condition by faking religious mania, and is dragged off the bus into detention. As the bus pulls away, a line of corpses of others who have been removed from the buses is seen, exemplifying the sacrifice Miriam has made to save Kee and her baby.

Theo and Kee enter Bexhill, a resort on the southern English coast which has been converted into a squalid detention centre for refugees. Here they meet Syd's contact, Marichka, a Gypsy from Romania. She provides them with a room where Kee gives birth to a girl. Syd reappears the next day and, after discovering the baby, attempts to kidnap Kee and her baby to collect a bounty. With Marichka's help, they manage to fight him off and escape. The Fishes then break into Bexhill, attempting to capture Kee and her baby amidst the commotion of a refugee uprising. The uprising quickly gains momentum and the British Army moves in to quell the rebellion.

The Fishes recapture Kee, but in the chaos Theo tracks Kee and her baby to a besieged apartment building and frees them. Luke shoots at Theo as they make their escape. Luke is then shot and killed. When the soldiers and the armed insurgents hear the baby crying, the fighting stops and the combatants look on in awe. Theo, Kee, and the baby leave the building in safety, walking past the astonished soldiers.

As the fighting resumes, they join Marichka and make their way to a small boat, and Theo rows Kee and her baby out to the buoy that marks the rendezvous point. Kee sees blood in the boat, and Theo admits that he was shot during their escape. Kee then says she will name her baby Dylan, after Theo's deceased son. As the Tomorrow emerges from the thick fog, Theo loses consciousness and slumps to the side of the boat.

Cast

  • Clive Owen as Theo Faron, a former activist whose child died during a flu pandemic. He distracts himself from thinking about the impending extinction of humanity with a bottle of Scotch whisky he keeps in the pocket of his jacket. Theo returns to the world of politics when his ex-wife Julian, now leader of an insurgent group called the Fishes, asks him to transport a young refugee to safety. Theo is the "archetypal everyman" who unwillingly becomes a saviour. Cast in April 2005, Owen spent several weeks collaborating with Cuarón and Sexton about his role. Impressed by Owen's creative insights, Cuarón and Sexton brought him on board as a writer. Back-story developing Theo's character was removed during the editing process: a scene showing Theo stealing petrol vouchers from work was cut to emphasise visual over verbal information. "Clive was a big help," Cuarón told Variety. "I would send a group of scenes to him, and then I would hear his feedback and instincts."
  • Julianne Moore as Julian Taylor, a political activist and leader of the militant "Fishes" group. Julian is also Theo's former wife and mother to Theo's deceased child. For Julian, Cuarón wanted an actor who had the "credibility of leadership, intelligence, [and] independence". Moore was cast in June 2005. "She is just so much fun to work with," Cuarón told Cinematical. "She is just pulling the rug out from under your feet all the time. You don't know where to stand, because she is going to make fun of you."
  • Michael Caine as Jasper Palmer, Theo's friend, a retired editorial cartoonist and neo-hippie who grows and smokes cannabis that he also smuggles to Bexhill refugee internment camp. Caine based Jasper on his personal experiences with friend John Lennon; it was the first time he had portrayed a character who would pass gas or smoke cannabis. Cuarón explains, "Once he had the clothes and so on and stepped in front of the mirror to look at himself, his body language started changing. Michael loved it. He believed he was this guy". Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune notices an apparent homage to Schwartz (Mort Mills) in Orson Welles' film noir, Touch of Evil (1958). Jasper calls Theo "amigo" -- just as Schwartz referred to Ramon Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston).
  • Claire-Hope Ashitey as Kee, a character who did not appear in the book. The role of an African illegal immigrant was written into the film, based on Cuarón's opinion of the recent single-origin hypothesis of human origins and the status of dispossessed people: "The fact that this child will be the child of an African woman has to do with the fact that humanity started in Africa. We're putting the future of humanity in the hands of the dispossessed and creating a new humanity to spring out of that."
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor as Luke, the replacement leader of the resistance movement.
  • Pam Ferris as Miriam,, an ex-midwife who is responsible for looking after Kee as she enters the terminal stage of pregnancy.
  • Danny Huston as Nigel, a high ranking government official. Nigel runs a Ministry of Art's programme "Ark of the Arts", which acquires works of Art such as Michaelangelo's David, Pablo Picasso's Guernica, and Banksy's British Cops Kissing.

Themes

Hope

Children of Men explores the themes of hope and faith in the face of overwhelming futility and despair. The film's source, the novel The Children of Men by P. D. James, describes what happens when society is unable to reproduce, using male infertility to explain this problem. In the novel, it is made clear that hope depends on future generations. James writes, "It was reasonable to struggle, to suffer, perhaps even to die, for a more just, a more compassionate society, but not in a world with no future where, all too soon, the very words 'justice,' 'compassion,' 'society,’ 'struggle,' 'evil,' would be unheard echoes on an empty air."

The film switches the infertility from male to female but never explains its cause: environmental destruction and divine punishment are considered. This unanswered question (and others in the film) have been attributed to Cuarón's dislike for expository film: "There's a kind of cinema I detest, which is a cinema that is about exposition and explanations.... It's become now what I call a medium for lazy readers.... Cinema is a hostage of narrative. And I'm very good at narrative as a hostage of cinema." Cuaron's disdain for back-story and exposition led him to use the concept of female infertility as a "metaphor for the fading sense of hope". The "almost mythical" Human Project is turned into a "metaphor for the possibility of the evolution of the human spirit, the evolution of human understanding." Without dictating how the audience should feel by the end of the film, Cuarón encourages viewers to come to their own conclusions about the sense of hope depicted in the final scenes: "We wanted the end to be a glimpse of a possibility of hope, for the audience to invest their own sense of hope into that ending. So if you're a hopeful person you'll see a lot of hope, and if you're a bleak person you'll see a complete hopelessness at the end."

Contemporary references

Children of Men takes an unconventional approach to the modern action film, using documentary, newsreel style to convey what critic Michael Joshua Rowin describes as "stunning verisimilitude within its mise-en-scène." For Rowin, the film alludes to and resonates with the catastrophic destruction and symbolism of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Rowin, along with film critics Jason Guerrasio and Ethan Alter, observe the film's underlying touchstone of immigration; Alter notes that the film "makes a potent case against the anti-immigrant sentiment" popular in modern societies like the United Kingdom and the United States, with Guerrasio describing the film as "a complex meditation on the politics of today". For Alter and other critics, the structural support and impetus for the contemporary references rests upon the visual nature of the film's exposition, occurring in the form of imagery as opposed to conventional dialogue. Visually, the refugee camps in the film intentionally evoke Abu Ghraib prison, Guantánamo Bay detainment camp, and The Maze. Other popular images appear, such as a prisoner in a pose resembling the photograph of Satar Jabar in the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal, and a sign over the refugee camp reading "Homeland Security". The similarity between the hellish, cinéma vérité stylized battle scenes of the film and current news and documentary coverage of the Iraq War, is noted by film critic Manohla Dargis, describing Cuarón's fictional landscapes as "war zones of extraordinary plausibility".

In the film, refugees are "hunted down like cockroaches," rounded up and put into cages and camps, and even shot, leading film critics like Chris Smith and Claudia Puig to observe symbolic "overtones" and images of the holocaust. This theme is reinforced in the scene where an elderly refugee woman speaking German is seen detained in a cage, and in the scene where British Homeland Security strips and beats illegal immigrants, a song by The Libertines, "Arbeit Macht Frei", plays in the background. "The visual allusions to the Nazi roundups are unnerving," writes Richard A. Blake. "It shows what people can become when the government orchestrates their fears for its own advantage."

Cuarón explains how he uses this imagery to propagate the theme by cross-referencing fictional and futuristic events with real, contemporary, or historical incidents and beliefs:

They exit the Russian apartments, and the next shot you see is this woman wailing, holding the body of her son in her arms. This was a reference to a real photograph of a woman holding the body of her son in the Balkans, crying with the corpse of her son. It's very obvious that when the photographer captured that photograph, he was referencing La Pieta, the Michelangelo sculpture of Mary holding the corpse of Jesus. So: We have a reference to something that really happened, in the Balkans, which is itself a reference to the Michelangelo sculpture. At the same time, we use the sculpture of David early on, which is also by Michelangelo, and we have of course the whole reference to the Nativity. And so everything was referencing and cross-referencing, as much as we could.

In the closing credits, the Sanskrit words, "Shanti Shanti Shanti" (pronounced as śānti), appear as end titles. Writer and film critic Laura Eldred of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, observes that Children of Men is "full of tidbits that call out to the educated viewer". During a visit to his house by Theo and Kee, Jasper says "Shanti, shanti, shanti." Eldred notes that the "shanti" used in the film is also found at the end of an Upanishad and in the final line of T. S. Eliot's poem, The Waste Land, a work Eldred describes as "devoted to contemplating a world emptied of fertility: a world on its last, teetering legs".

Religion

Described as a "companion piece" to Cuarón's Y tu mamá también (2001), Children of Men is also a road movie. Like Virgil's Aeneid, Dante's Divine Comedy, and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the crux of the journey in Children of Men lies in what is uncovered along the path rather than the terminus itself. Theo's heroic journey across the UK mirrors his personal quest for "self-awareness", a journey that takes Theo from "despair to hope".

According to Cuarón, the title of P. D. James' book (The Children of Men) is a Catholic allegory derived from a passage of scripture in the Bible. (Psalm 90(89):3 of the KJV: "Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.) James refers to her story as a "Christian fable" while Cuarón describes it as "almost like a look at Christianity": "I didn't want to shy away from the spiritual archetypes," Cuarón told Filmmaker Magazine. "But I wasn't interested in dealing with dogma."

The film has been noted for its use of Christian symbolism; for example, British terrorists named "Fishes" protect the rights of refugees. Opening on Christmas Day in the United States, critics compared the characters of Theo and Kee with Joseph and Mary, calling the film a "modern-day Nativity story": Kee's pregnancy is revealed to Theo in a barn, alluding to the manger of the Nativity scene, and when other characters discover Kee and her baby, they respond with "Jesus Christ" or the sign of the cross.

To highlight these spiritual themes, Cuarón commissioned a 15-minute piece by British composer John Tavener, a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church whose work resonates with the themes of "motherhood, birth, rebirth, and redemption in the eyes of God." Calling his score a "musical and spiritual reaction to Alfonso's film", snippets of Tavener's "Fragments of a Prayer" contain lyrics in Latin, German and Sanskrit sung by a mezzo-soprano. Words like "mata" (mother), "pahi mam" (protect me), "avatara" (saviour), and "alleluia" appear throughout the film.

The Road

Children of Men is considered a road film. Social and political commentary and rebellion are two themes that are characteristic of road films and both can be seen in Children of Men.

The international infertility epidemic and subsequent downfall of every country except the United Kingdom is introduced within the first couple of minutes of the film, thanks to a voice-over news broadcast. Because news reports are generally considered objective explanations of what is going on in the world, they provide an interlude to the commentary the film makes about society and politics in this fictional world.

Brian Ireland argues that crossing cultural boundaries in road films is a “reflection of the wider cultural context in which the movie... is placed”. In the first scene of the film, Theo gets coffee in a cafe where all the patrons are glued to the news on the television about the youngest person on earth having been killed. As soon as he leaves, a bomb goes off in the cafe. Shortly after the bomb goes off, Theo drives to visit Jasper, his mentor and good friend. Jasper suggests that it was the government that blew up the coffee shop and then expresses his sentiments for all of the immigrants that are flocking to Britain because of the state of their own countries. Once the audience receives the objective information from the newscasts about the state of the world and culture within the movie, the film immediately responds with commentary about how the government is managing the crisis.

According to David Laderman, author of Driving Visions: Exploring the Road Movie, rebellion is the, “engine driving the genre” There are three strong rebel forces in the film. Theo’s friend and mentor, Jasper, is an aging hippie, ex-political cartoonist who now lives off the grid and illegally sells marijuana to government workers. The Fishes are a rebel group planning a violent uprising against the government. Finally, Theo himself, along with Kee, are the ultimate rebels in the film because they go against not only the government, but the Fishes as well.

Production

The adaptation of the P. D. James novel was originally written by Paul Chart, and later rewritten by Mark Fergus and Hawk Otsby. Developed by producers Marc Abraham, Eric Newman, Hilary Shor and Tony Smith, Beacon Pictures brought director Alfonso Cuarón on board in 2001. Cuarón and screenwriter Timothy J. Sexton began rewriting the script after the director completed Y tu mamá también (2001). Afraid he would "start second guessing things" Cuarón chose not to read P. D. James' novel, opting to have Sexton read the book while Cuarón himself read an abridged version. Cuarón did not immediately begin production, instead directing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004). The director's work experience in the United Kingdom exposed him to the "social dynamics of the British psyche", giving him insight into the depiction of "British reality". Cuarón used the film The Battle of Algiers (1967) as a model for social reconstruction in preparation for production, presenting the film to Clive Owen as an example of his vision for Children of Men. In order to create a philosophical and social framework for the film, the director read literature by Slavoj Žižek, as well as similar works. The film Sunrise (1927) was also influential.

Location

The look and feel of the film A Clockwork Orange (1971) helped contribute to the futuristic, yet battered patina of 2027 London. Children of Men was the second film Cuarón had made in London, with the director portraying the city as a character itself, shooting single, wide shots of the city. While Cuarón was preparing the film, the London bombings occurred, but the director never considered moving the production. "It would have been impossible to shoot anywhere but London, because of the very obvious way the locations were incorporated into the film," Cuarón told Variety. "For example, the shot of Fleet Street looking toward St. Paul's would have been impossible to shoot anywhere else." Due to these circumstances, the opening terrorist attack scene on Fleet Street was shot one-and-a-half months after the London bombing.

Cuarón chose to shoot some scenes in East London, a location he considered "a place without glamour". The set locations were dressed to make them appear even more run-down; Cuarón says he told the crew "'Let's make it more Mexican'. In other words, we'd look at a location and then say: yes, but in Mexico there would be this and this. It was about making the place look run-down. It was about poverty." He also made use of London's most popular sites, shooting in locations like Trafalgar Square and Battersea Power Station. The power station scene (whose conversion into an art archive is a reference to the Tate Modern), has been compared to Antonioni's Red Desert (1964). Cuarón added a pig balloon to the scene as homage to Pink Floyd's Animals. Other art works visible in this scene include Michaelangelo's David, Picasso's Guernica, and Banksy's British Cops Kissing. London visual effects companies Double Negative and Framestore worked directly with Cuarón from script to post production, developing effects and creating "environments and shots that wouldn't otherwise be possible".

Style and design

"In most sci-fi epics, special effects substitute for story. Here they seamlessly advance it," observes Colin Covert of Star Tribune. Billboards were designed to balance a contemporary and futuristic appearance as well as easily visualizing what else was occurring in the rest of the world at the time, and cars were made to resemble modern ones at first glance, although a closer look made them seem unfamiliar. Cuarón informed the art department that the film was the "anti-Blade Runner", rejecting technologically advanced proposals and downplaying the science fiction elements of the 2027 setting. The director focused on images reflecting the contemporary period, choosing to have innovative technology in the film's timeline discontinued by 2014. With the future in mind, Cuarón maintained a steady gaze on the present: "We didn't want to be distracted by the future. We didn't want to transport the audience into another reality.

Single-shot sequences

Children of Men used several lengthy single-shot sequences in which extremely complex actions take place. The longest of these are a shot in which Kee gives birth (199 seconds); a roadside ambush on a country road (247 seconds); and a scene in which Theo is captured by the Fishes, escapes, and runs down a street and through a building in the middle of a raging battle (454 seconds). These sequences were extremely difficult to film, although the effect of continuity is sometimes an illusion, aided by CGI effects.

Cuarón had already experimented with long takes in Y tu mamá también and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. His style is influenced by the Swiss film Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 (1976), a favorite of Cuarón's. Cuarón reminisces: "I was studying cinema when I first saw [Jonah], and interested in the French New Wave. Jonah was so unflashy compared to those films. The camera keeps a certain distance and there are relatively few close-ups. It's elegant and flowing, constantly tracking, but very slowly and not calling attention to itself."

The creation of the single-shot sequences was a challenging, time-consuming process that sparked concerns from the studio. It took fourteen days to prepare for the single take in which Clive Owen's character searches a building under attack, and five hours for every time they wanted to reshoot it. In the middle of the shot that appears in the film blood splattered onto the lens, which cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki convinced the director to leave in. According to Owen, "Right in the thick of it are me and the camera operator because we're doing this very complicated, very specific dance which, when we come to shoot, we have to make feel completely random."

Cuarón's initial idea for maintaining continuity during the roadside ambush scene was dismissed by production experts as an "impossible shot to do". Fresh from the visual effects-laden Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Cuarón suggested using computer-generated imagery to film the scene. Lubezki refused to allow it, reminding the director that they had intended to make a film akin to a "raw documentary". Instead, a special camera rig invented by Gary Thieltges of Doggicam Systems was employed, allowing Cuarón to develop the scene as one extended take. A vehicle was modified to enable seats to tilt and lower actors out of the way of the camera, and the windshield was designed to tilt out of the way to allow camera movement in and out through the front windscreen. A crew of four, including the DP and camera operator, rode on the roof.

However, the commonly reported statement that the action scenes are continuous shots is not entirely true. Visual effects supervisor Frazer Churchill has indicated that the battle sequence was filmed in five separate takes over two locations and then seamlessly stitched together to give the illusion of a single take . Similarly, the car sequence was filmed in six separate takes over three locations and then stitched together, along with various other CG elements including a CG roof. In an interview with Variety, Cuarón acknowledged this nature of the "single-shot" action sequences: "Maybe I'm spilling a big secret, but sometimes it's more than what it looks like. The important thing is how you blend everything and how you keep the perception of a fluid choreography through all of these different pieces."

Tim Webber of VFX house Framestore CFC was responsible for the three-and-a-half minute single take of Kee giving birth, helping to choreograph and create the CG effects of the childbirth. Cuarón had originally intended to use an animatronic baby as Kee's child with the exception of the childbirth scene. In the end, two takes were shot, with the second take concealing Claire-Hope Ashitey's legs, replacing them with prosthetic legs. Cuarón was pleased with the results of the effect, and returned to previous shots of the baby in animatronic form, replacing them with Framestore's computer-generated baby.

Sound

Cuarón uses sound and music to bring the fictional world of social unrest and infertility to life. A creative yet restrained combination of rock, pop, hip-hop and classical music replace the typical film score. The mundane sounds of traffic, barking dogs, and advertisements follow the character of Theo through London, East Sussex and Kent, producing what Los Angeles Times writer Kevin Crust calls an "urban audio rumble". For Crust, the music comments indirectly on the barren world of Children of Men: Deep Purple's version of "Hush" blaring from Jasper's car radio becomes a "sly lullaby for a world without babies" while King Crimson's "The Court of the Crimson King" make a similar allusion with their lyrics, "...three lullabies in an ancient tongue".

Also notable is a remix of Aphex Twin's "Omgyjya Switch 7" to include devilish screams during the scene in Jasper's house, where the main character is sampling Jasper's "Strawberry Cough" - a potent, strawberry-flavoured blend of marijuana. This remix has not been heard commercially and is sought after by fans of Aphex Twin, the elusive Cornish braindance musician.

During the second half of the film, less popular music is used. For the Bexhill scenes, the film makes use of silence and cacophonous sound effects such as the firing of automatic weapons, and loudspeakers directing the movement of "fugees" (illegal immigrants). Here, classical music by George Frideric Handel, Gustav Mahler, and Krzysztof Penderecki's "Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima" complements the chaos of the refugee camp. Throughout the film, John Tavener's Fragments of a Prayer is used as a spiritual motif to explain and interpret the story without the use of narrative.

As the closing credits begin, background sound effects of children laughing appear. Two political songs, John Lennon's "anti-nationalist rant" "Bring on the Lucie (Freeda Peeple)" and Jarvis Cocker's "Running the World", close out the film.

Release

Children of Men held its world premiere at the 63rd Venice International Film Festival on 3 September 2006. On 22 September 2006, Children of Men debuted at #1 in the United Kingdom with $2.4 million in 368 screens. The film debuted in a limited release in the United States on 22 December 2006 in 16 theaters, expanding the number of theaters to over 1,200 on 5 January 2007. As of 6 February 2008, Children of Men grossed $69,612,678 worldwide, with $35,552,383 of the revenue generated in the United States.

Critical reception

The film received very positive reviews. According to the review tallying website Rotten Tomatoes, Children of Men received a 92% overall approval out of 196 reviews from critics, and on Metacritic, the film has a rating of 84 based on 36 reviews. Dana Stevens of Slate Magazine called the film "the herald of another blessed event: the arrival of a great director by the name of Alfonso Cuarón." Stevens hailed the film's extended car chase and battle scenes as "two of the most virtuoso single-shot chase sequences I've ever seen." Manohla Dargis of The New York Times called the film a "superbly directed political thriller", raining accolades on the long chase scenes. "Easily one of the best films of the year" said Ethan Alter of Film Journal International, with scenes that "dazzle you with their technical complexity and visual virtuosity." Jonathan Romney of The Independent praised the accuracy of Cuarón's portrait of the UK, but he criticized some of the film's futuristic scenes as "run-of-the-mill future fantasy." Film Comment's Critics' Poll of the best films of 2006 ranked the film #19 while the 2006 Readers' Poll ranked it #2. On their list of the best movies of 2006, AV Club, the San Francisco Chronicle, Slate Magazine and The Washington Post placed the film at number-one.

Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2006.

General top ten

Awards

P. D. James and the screenwriters of Children of Men were awarded the 19th annual USC Scripter Award for the screen adaptation of the novel; Howard Rodman, chair of the USC School of Cinematic Arts Writing Division, described the book-to-screen adaptation as "writing and screen writing of the highest order. The film was also nominated in the category of Best Adapted Screenplay at the 79th Academy Awards.

Children of Men also obtained Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki) and Best Film Editing (Alfonso Cuarón and Alex Rodríguez). The British Academy of Film and Television Arts nominated Children of Men for Best Visual Effects and honored the film with awards for Best Cinematography and Best Production Design at the 60th British Academy Film Awards. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki won the feature film award for Best Cinematography at the 21st American Society of Cinematographers Awards. The Australian Cinematographers Society also awarded Lubezki the 2007 International Award for Cinematography for Children of Men.

The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films bestowed the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film on Children of Men, and it received the nomination for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form by the members of the World Science Fiction Convention.

DVD

The DVD was released in Europe on 15 January 2007 and in the United States on 27 March 2007. Extras include a half-hour documentary by director Alfonso Cuarón entitled "The Possibility of Hope". The documentary explores the intersection between the film's themes and reality with a critical analysis by eminent scholars: the Slovenian sociologist and philosopher Slavoj Žižek , anti-globalization activist Naomi Klein, futurist James Lovelock, sociologist Saskia Sassen, human geographer Fabrizio Eva, cultural theorist Tzvetan Todorov, and philosopher and economist John N. Gray; "Under Attack" features a demonstration of the innovative techniques required for the car chase and battle scenes; Clive Owen and Julianne Moore discuss their characters in "Theo & Julian"; "Futuristic Design" opens the door on the production design and look of the film; "Visual Effects" shows how the digital baby was created. Deleted scenes are included. The film is also available in a HD DVD/DVD combo package and, in Scandinavian countries, as an all-region Blu-Ray disc.

Notes and references

External links

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