Thursday, 24 January 2008

Task 15: First Paragraph

According to Neale’s work, the word ‘typical’ in this instance represents the ‘repertoire of elements’, recurring themes which can be found in an individual genre. Since the early 1900’s, genres have continuously borrowed elements from one another, something which has now come to be defined as ‘hybridity’. Neale suggests, ‘difference is absolutely essential to the economy of genre’, and in doing so provides an explanation to the consistent variation in their ‘syntactic cores’. This suggests genre is not fixed, rather it is a reflection of the zeitgeist. In turn, looking at the typicality of 'Children Of Men' as a science-fiction film becomes far more complex and requires a detailed analysis of genre first.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Task 14: Starting The Essay

"We didn't want to be distracted by the future. We didn't want to transport the audience into another reality."

Is Children Of Men a typical science-fiction film?

Opening Paragraph

To understand what a typical science fiction film is, one must first define science-fiction as a film genre and subsequently clarify what are believed to be its typical themes and features.

Task 13: Essay Plan

Is Children Of Men a typical science-fiction film?

Media Language
  • Mise-en-scene: Grim settings, aided by low-key lighting, are repeatedly used throughout the film to re-inforce the theme of a dystopian society. Cuaron pays close attention to the costumes worn by actors as they are an essential tool in portraying the 2027 setting without alienating the film's audience [Cuaron stated the film was very much "anti-Blade Runner"].
  • Single Shot Sequences: Several lengthy single shot sequences are filmed in a tracking shot/cinema verite style. The audience are made to feel as if they are watching a documentary, and this in turn provides the film with a sense of hybridity when looking at genre.
  • Auteur Theory: Cuaron's input is clearly visible to the audience, especially during the single shot sequences. His contribution provides reasons for the film's hybrid nature and decision to downplay the possible science-fiction elements of a 2027 setting.


  • Patriarchy: Despite his ruggid appearance and average profession, Theo [Clive Owen] is assigned the role of protecting a young female. This demonstrates the female reliance on a man for her own safety in a time of crisis.
  • Anti-Government: The situation of the 2027 setting is built around what seems to be the government's failiure to deal with contemporary issues such as immigration, pollution and terrorism. Whilst Cuaron may not be anti-government at all, he provides a horrific vision of the possible consequences which may arrise if these issues are not dealt with.


  • Science-Fiction: Children Of Men incorporates two of arguably the most distinct and common elements of the genre; A futuristic setting and a dystopian society. Other recurring themes are discussed in detail by Neale and Altman.
  • Hybrid-genre: Cuaron rejects many other common elements of science-fiction such as artificial intelligence and advancements in technology. As Covert states; 'In most sci-fi epics, special effects substitute for the story. Here they seamlessly advance it'. Cuaron instead concentrates more on the cinematography, this in his attempt to create a cinema verite style feel to the film.
  • Robert Stam: His theory of the four key problems with generic labels can be applied to many sci-fi epics, but his theory can only partially be applied to Children Of Men due to it's hybrid nature and neglectance of themes such as alien invasions and artifical intelligence.


  • Men: Continue to be the dominant figures in society, but to an extent. Theo represents masculinity, bravery and courage. Soldiers and terrorists all seem to be male, a stereotype dating back to the early 20th century. By having this, it can be argued Cuaron is perhaps suggesting the urge for violence in males is what is preventing a seizure to many conflicts across the world.
  • Women: Whilst all the government representatives in a positition of power seem to be male, it is interesting to note that females are not portrayed as sex objects. Thus, it is not a necessity to apply Mulvey's theory to the film. Another significant feature is the role of Julian. She represents the modern women; intelligent and independent.
  • Refugee Camps: Cuaron seems to draw references between the refugee camps in the film to ones such as the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp, illustrating the harsh nature in how immigrants and captives are treated.


  • It is hard to establish a primary audience for the film. It's fast pace combined with the action and the fact that it's set in the future suggests an audience of young adults is being targeted. However, Cuaron's emphasis on comtemporary issues such as immigration and terrorism can also suggest an older target audience is being targeted as it is fast becoming a stereotype that today's younger generation do not follow politics.


  • The film is distributed by Universal Pictures, a global company in the field of Hollywood cinema. However, it is interesting they chose to appoint Cuaron to direct the project for two reasons: he is a relative newcomer to the industry and art-house audiences will be familiar with his work.


  • Levi Strauss: His theory of good vs. evil [a plot commonly used in many sci-fi films concerned with the theme of dystopian societies] becomes far more complex when looking at Children Of Men. The begninning of the film sees the audience put in a position where they identify with the government, and in turn see the terrorists as evil. However, as the film progresses and the plot unfolds, the audience learn the terrorists in the film are actually fighting for a good cause, and in turn the audience's morals are challenged as they are faced with the decision of deciding whether to identify with the government or the terrorists.
  • Anti-Hero: Theo's ruggid appearance, lack of motivation, history as a protestor and shortage of money very much make him an anti-hero. Science-fiction films concerning dystopian societies commonly use confident and well-skilled heroes.

Task 12: Historical Text - A Clockwork Orange (1971)

The facts:

  • 'A Clockwork Orange' is a 1971 film directed by Stanley Kubrick.
  • It features 'disturbing, violent imagery to facilitate social commentary on psychiatry, youth gangs, and other topics in a future dystopian society'.
  • At the time of its release, the film recieved mix reviews. Whilst it was nominated for numerous awards, it was the subject of great controversy due to the film's explicit sexual and violent content.
  • The film was released as a rated X in America. In Britain, the film was withrawn from UK distribution. Regardless, 'A Clockwork Orange' had firmly established itself as a 'cult classic' by the time of it's re-release in 2000.

What's it got to do with my independent study?

  • The film's status as a 'science fiction' film is disputed. The 'Internet Movie Database' has it tagged under genres such as 'crime' and 'drama'. As 'Sight and Sound' [a magazine focused on the science fiction genre] argues; the film is set in the future, portrays a dystopian society and provides social commentary on what current issues can evolve into in the future [identical to what 'Children Of Men'], surely these are characteristics necessary for a film to be classed as science fiction?
  • 'The science fiction film genre has long served as a useful vehicle for "safely" discussing controversial current issues and often providing thoughtful social commentary on potential unforeseen future issues'.
  • A major factor behind why the film packed so much individuality at the time of it's release was that unlike sci-fi films during the 70s, 'A Clockwork Orange' neglected placing significant emphasis on advanced technology and completely ignored themes of 'artificial intelligence' and 'alien/robot invasions'. The film instead focused on comtemporary issues at the time such as youth culture and psychological conditioning, using them to create a future dystopian society by presenting them in the horrific and shocking manner. 'Children Of Men' does the same thing, focusing instead on immigration and terrorism issues.

Other historical texts equally as important:

  • Blade Runner (1982, Ridley Scott)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick)
  • Metropolis (1927, Fritz Lang)
  • The War Of The Worlds (1953, Byron Haskin)
  • Frankenstein (1910, J.Searle Dawley)