Alfonso Cuaron has made a thing of taking genres and grounding them in reality. He put contemporary clothes on the Harry Potter kids and now he turns the future into the present with Children of Men. Set in the next generation when women have ceased conceiving, the film is really about our current issues with fertility, immigration and war.
"It’s obviously a futuristic movie because it takes place in the near future but the reason it takes place in the near future is only because of a convention of story in which we’re talking about infertility and 18 years of infertility," said Cuaron. "That infertility we use just as a metaphor. In a science fiction movie you would have gone into the whys and the mystery of infertility. We decided to not even care about it and just take it as a point of departure. So based upon that, taking that as a point of departure, to try to make an observation about the state of things. You mentioned Homeland Security and stuff but the movie is not about that. That is part of the observation of the reality that we are living. The whole idea with that is to try to bring the state of things, what is happening outside the green zones that we happily live in and what happens if we bring the world into the green zones. We experience for an hour and a half the state of things and then try to make our own conclusions about the possibility of hope."
So, those scenes mimicking Abu Ghraib in the background and adds for euthanasia pills are not so much a political commentary. "When I started working on the film, the first meeting with the art department, they came up with the most amazing [things]. I think that they heard that it was a movie of the future and they undusted all these concept designs, beautiful supersonic cars, buildings, the whole thing. And they were really beautiful but I said, ‘This is not the movie we’re doing. The movie we’re doing is this.’ And inside I had my own file of photographs from Iraq, from Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Somalia, Chernobyl, and I mean this is the movie we’re doing. And the rule number one in this film is that whatever we see has to have a visual reference of stuff that now has become part of human consciousness and it’s an iconography that mostly came out of the media. So that was the balance, how to make it the future but feel today and that every single thing as Emmanuel Lubezki, my cinematographer, kept saying we cannot afford to have one single film frame, meaning 24 frames per second, so one single photogram that is not commenting about the state of things. So that was the big challenge."
So it is a comment, but only as it serves the story. "I didn’t want to make a movie about messages per se. It’s not that it is a movie about trying to send messages about those things, [it’s] about trying to make an observation but then people have to come with their own conclusions. For me there were a lot of metaphorical aspects that worked. We were trying to work with archetypes but also with certain metaphors. The fact of having an African child or the son of an African girl, the child is actually the daughter of an African girl, has to do with the fact that humanity started in Africa. But also to put the future in the hands of the dispossessed and the lower caste of humanity and to create a new humanity to spring out of that."
Perhaps the commentary this author saw in the film only reflects his own view of the current world. "You see those things and the direct reference was Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Nevertheless, that is the same reference as concentration camps in the second World War. Some people, the pessimistics, they think that that is just the way it is. I have a very grim view, not of the future. I have a very grim view of the present. I have a very hopeful view of the future. And I think that that has to do with I believe an evolution is happening. Together with all this greenness an evolution is happening, an evolution of the human understanding that is happening in the youngest generation. I believe that the youngest generation, the generation to come, is the one that is going to come with new schemes and new perspectives of things. It’s as if we haven’t seen the reality from the standpoint that the earth is flat and the new generation is going to show us that actually that is fear, that it’s going around the sun, it’s not the sun that is going around the earth. It’s just that I think that it’s a matter of understanding."
Children of Men is now playing.