Sunday, 30 September 2007
Here's the ones that I commented on (all looking at Genre):
Thursday, 27 September 2007
Children Of Men is renowned for it's several lengthy single shot sequences. The best example of this is the one above. Such shots are important to mention as these style of shots are rarely used in main-stream sci films. Rather, these shots would be expected to be found in art-house flims. However, not only are these shots lengthy, they are filmed in an almost cinema verite documentary style. Cuaron incorporates techniques from other forms of media into a mainstream sci-fi flim. Whereas other sci-fi films rely on special effects as the wow-factor for audiences, Children Of Men relies on it's storyline and these shots which truely are a magnificent accomplishment of cinematography.
What will the end of the world look like? As shabby and nasty as the way it looks here is my guess. This explosively violent future-nightmare thriller, directed by Alfonso Cuarón and adapted from the novel by PD James, has simply the most extraordinary look of any movie around: a stunningly convincing realisation of a Beirut-ised London in the year 2027, in which terrorist bombs have become as dreary and commonplace as cancer.
No one does dystopian satire like the English and this story is in a recognisably vernacular tradition, though owing as much to John Wyndham as George Orwell. It actually reminded me of bygone television chillers such as Barry Hines's Threads and the 1970s classic Survivors, with their distinctive and now unfashionably high-minded determination to confront the worst outcomes imaginable. It is, perhaps, odd that Cuarón sticks with the 1992 novel's reluctance to predict the internet, and media-watchers will be intrigued to see that in 2027 the London Evening Standard has evidently seen off web and freesheet competition to stay in its monopoly pole position on the capital's sandbagged streets. But despite the stylisations and grandiloquent drama, there is something just so grimly and grittily plausible about the awful world conjured up here, and the full-on urban warfare scenes really are electrifying. Clive Owen stars as Theo, a former radical protester, who in defeated middle age has become an alcoholic and low-ranking employee of a government department: a miserable guy in a miserable world. Pollution has rendered humanity infertile. The world's youngest person is all of 18 years old and there is a global malaise of disorder and despair, which our right little, tight little island is toughing out, offering its citizens free suicide pills with the Shakespearean brand-name of Quietus. Britain's relative calm and prosperity have attracted waves of illegal immigrants; it is the responsibility of the UK's Homeland Security department to pen them into vast mesh-fenced internment camps, the biggest of which is a gigantic caged shanty-town in Bexhill - a very English Guantanamo-on-Sea.
Theo's world is further shattered when he is abducted by a terrorist group called the Fishes, led by his former lover Julian (Julianne Moore), an unrepentant activist who inveigles him into helping her smuggle one of their number out of the country. This is Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), a terrified young woman with a sensational secret, whom the terrorists want to use for their own ends. Kee looks to Theo for help - a very unpromising hero, who is hardly less scared than she is. But Theo recovers some of his idealism and even romanticism in protecting her.
Cuarón's movie has softened the blow of James's book just a little, but the cinema screen here is like an opened window on to a world of Arctic fear and despair. His script is a little cumbersome occasionally: some characters are required to deliver awkward set-piece speeches with bullets whistling past their nose. So much else is outstanding, though. The hard, flat, cold images recorded by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki - reporting back from the futureworld of decay dreamt up by production designers Jim Clay and Geoffrey Kirkland - are stunning. Cuarón's gun battle between the terrorists and the army is a bravura piece of work, deploying a very scary sort of first-person shooter graphics; incredibly, it turns Bexhill into a Middle East warzone, like the strange Vietnam of Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket - famously filmed in the surreal moonscape of London's undeveloped Docklands. And the first terrorist detonation hit like a punch in the solar plexus. There are witty and shrewd small parts for Michael Caine, as the ageing hippy ganja dealer who hooks Theo and Kee up with a counter-cultural support network, Peter Mullan as the psychotic border guard and Danny Huston as Nigel, the elegantly despairing apparatchik who salvages great works of art from the philistine mob.
One of the cleverest touches is the ancient, manky sweatshirt Theo wears -advertising the London Olympics of 2012. To us, it is a symbol of London's last-ever demonstration of untroubled national rejoicing, when this country was awarded the Games, before that mood was cruelly shattered by the 7/7 bombings. Now London 2012 is Theo's veteran-badge of despair, and a memento of his lost career in political dissent.
So what would happen to us all, psychologically, if the end of the world was at hand? Danny Huston's mandarin tells Theo that he personally gets by from day to day by simply not thinking about what is happening, and his stunned, bleak acquiescence in the creeping horror of global death is symptomatic of the vast spiritual sterility which ushered in the catastrophe in the first place.
Freaky chiliastic cults start springing up: the Renouncers and Repenters - whose frenzied self-laceration reminded me a little of Roy Andersson's millennial fantasy Songs from the Second Floor, in which a little girl is sacrificed to stave off the last judgment. But what Cuarón's film suggests is that despair and disgust would manifest themselves overwhelmingly in tyranny. A mass, irrational longing for punishment would gather; checks and restraints on the political classes' natural tendency towards repression would be removed, and our energy to resist the agencies of the state would be eroded. All of these ideas make a very grim backdrop to an excellent thriller. Cuarón has created the thinking person's action movie.
Science Fiction Films are usually scientific, visionary, comic-strip-like, and imaginative, and usually visualized through fanciful, imaginative settings, expert film production design, advanced technology gadgets (i.e., robots and spaceships), scientific developments, or by fantastic special effects. Sci-fi films are complete with heroes, distant planets, impossible quests, improbable settings, fantastic places, great dark and shadowy villains, futuristic technology and gizmos, and unknown and inexplicable forces. Many other SF films feature time travels or fantastic journeys, and are set either on Earth, into outer space, or (most often) into the future time. Quite a few examples of science-fiction cinema owe their origins to writers Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.
They often portray the dangerous and sinister nature of knowledge ('there are some things Man is not meant to know') (i.e., the classic Frankenstein (1931), The Island of Lost Souls (1933), and David Cronenberg's The Fly (1986) - an updating of the 1958 version directed by Kurt Neumann and starring Vincent Price), and vital issues about the nature of mankind and our place in the whole scheme of things, including the threatening, existential loss of personal individuality (i.e., Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)). Plots of space-related conspiracies (Capricorn One (1978)), supercomputers threatening impregnation (Demon Seed (1977)), the results of germ-warfare (The Omega Man (1971)) and laboratory-bred viruses or plagues (28 Days Later (2002)), black-hole exploration (Event Horizon (1997)), and futuristic genetic engineering and cloning (Gattaca (1997) and Michael Bay's The Island (2005)) show the tremendous range that science-fiction can delve into.
Strange and extraordinary microscopic organisms or giant, mutant monsters ('things or creatures from space') may be unleashed, either created by misguided mad scientists or by nuclear havoc (i.e., The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)). Sci-fi tales have a prophetic nature (they often attempt to figure out or depict the future) and are often set in a speculative future time. They may provide a grim outlook, portraying a dystopic view of the world that appears grim, decayed and un-nerving (i.e., Metropolis (1927) with its underground slave population and view of the effects of industrialization, the portrayal of 'Big Brother' society in 1984 (1956 and 1984), nuclear annihilation in a post-apocalyptic world in On the Beach (1959), Douglas Trumbull's vision of eco-disaster in Silent Running (1972), Michael Crichton's Westworld (1973) with androids malfunctioning, Soylent Green (1973) with its famous quote: "Soylent Green IS PEOPLE!", 'perfect' suburbanite wives in The Stepford Wives (1975), and the popular gladiatorial sport of the year 2018 in Rollerball (1975)). Commonly, sci-fi films express society's anxiety about technology and how to forecast and control the impact of technological and environmental change on contemporary society.
Science fiction often expresses the potential of technology to destroy humankind through Armaggedon-like events, wars between worlds, Earth-imperiling encounters or disasters (i.e., The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951), When Worlds Collide (1951), The War of the Worlds (1953), the two Hollywood blockbusters Deep Impact (1998) and Armageddon (1998), and The Day After Tomorrow (2004), etc.). In many science-fiction tales, aliens, creatures, or beings (sometimes from our deep subconscious, sometimes in space or in other dimensions) are unearthed and take the mythical fight to new metaphoric dimensions or planes, depicting an eternal struggle or battle (good vs. evil) that is played out by recognizable archetypes and warriors (i.e., Forbidden Planet (1956) with references to the 'id monster' from Shakespeare's The Tempest, the space opera Star Wars (1977) with knights and a princess with her galaxy's kingdom to save, The Fifth Element (1997), and the metaphysical Solaris (1972 and 2002)). Beginning in the 80s, science fiction began to be feverishly populated by noirish, cyberpunk films, with characters including cyber-warriors, hackers, virtual reality dreamers and druggies, and underworld low-lifers in nightmarish, un-real worlds (i.e., Blade Runner (1982), Strange Days (1995), Johnny Mnemonic (1995), and The Matrix (1999)).
Hypothesis: Children Of Men is not a typical science fiction film. It uses documentary and cinema verite style filming (amongst other things) to differentiate itself from other sci-films. 'Blade Runner', 'Minority Report' and 'I, Robot' are all films that can be classified as typical science fiction films and will be used in the study consistently in proving that Children Of Men is indeed not a typical sci-fi film.
Costumes - The clothes worn by the protagonist of the play are very simple and lack glamour. They give a working class look to Theo. In general, despite the setting of 2027, fashion does not seem to have changed from the present day. In camps, the clothes worn by the people are very raggid and poor which add to the effect of a dystopian society.
Lighting - Throughout the film low key lighting is regularly used, particurarly in places such as the camps. Again, this is to add to the effect of a dystopian society.
Setting/Mise-en-scene - Filmed in gritty and harsh settings and conditions. Enviromental destruction is always visible in nearly all the settings used throughout the movie. One of the only places which experience peace for a certain amount of time is Theo's friend's hideout, set in an isolated region of woods.
There are many ideologies put across in 'Children Of Men'. A reoccuring theme of the film is that 'the future is a thing of the past'. The ideology put across in this statement is that if the governments of today fail to deal with the problems and issues we are facing at present, they will have both disastrous and fatal consequences in the future. In turn, this shows the film is putting across a political ideology. Other ideologies put across are that people are still struggling to deal with the threat of terrorism amongst other things.
Children Of Men is a science-fiction film. Rather than concentrate on the more typical features of a sci-fi film (special effects, advancement in technology etc.), the film instead concentrates more on the storyline and the themes and issues present in the 2027 setting. The special effects, though rarely used, are only there to enhance the storyline rather than replace it. Though a sci-film, it seems Children Of Men chooses to reject many common features found in typical sci-fi flims.
Males are represented, without surprise, as the more dominant sex in the film. Jobs considered traditionally to be 'man's jobs' are still carried out by the men, such as being soldiers and fighting for the army. In addition, the safety of the pregnant woman lies in the hand of a male, so he is in turn seen as the protector, or even the hero who is on a adventure. The leading female character in the film (Theo's Wife) is represented as a strong individual with a high position in society (she is experiencing more success than her husband Theo).
Due to its many political ideologies that the film is putting across, it can be assumed an older target audience of perhaps 20 - 30 year olds, both male and female are being targeted. This is because they are expected have good knowledge of the present news and issues that the film uses as a cause for the state the future setting is in. Furthermore, as the film is set in 2027, this age group will feel obliged to watch the film as the future concerns them, and the film is showing the possible consequences of what can happen if today's issues are not solved.
The film was distributed by Universal Studios, a major American film studio. The fact that this institution chose to distribute a film that was directed by a relative newcomer and stars many foreign actors is interesting.
The film does not follow Todorov's theory, as used by many other sci-films as there is no equlibrium at the start. However, the film does make use of Propps' theory as the protagonist, Theo, can be seen as a hero due to his mission of transporting the african refugee to safety. A binary opposition of good vs. evil (Levi Strauss) is also used, but rather in a less direct manner as the evil (The Fishes') can be seen as a politically extreme group fighting for a good cause (rights for immigrants).
Social: Addressing current soical issues and how different groups and individuals react to and deal with them.
Historical: The historical part of the film can be seen as the issues we are facing today and how if not resolved, they will impact our society in the future.
Economical: The theme of poor is an issue shownrepeatedly throughout the film as many of the scenes are filmed in slum locations and camps.
Political: The film addresses the issue that if today's governments fail to deal with the present issues they are facing, there could be disastrous consequences in the future.
Other Texts to compare and contrast with:
AI: Artifical Intelligence