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Children of Men• It’s a ﬁlm set in 2027, in a futuristic fascist state.• Its futuristic world seems in some ways, not too different to our own – and even appears backward at times: the antiquated technology, poverty and dirty transportation.• But how is it post modern? 2
Why can Children of Men bedescribed as a postmodern ﬁlm?• ‘Borrows’ or Appropriates from a range of different genres.• Action.• Adventure.• War.• Documentary.• Science-Fiction.• Drama.• Road Movie.
Not a typical Sci-ﬁ ﬁlm• Children of Men doesn’t utilise many conventions that we would associate with the Sci-ﬁ genre. There is a futuristic setting (2027), and a threat to humanity – infertility - but beyond this it isn’t really typical of sci-ﬁ at all.• It doesn’t really explore any issues relating to science and/or technology. Cuaron the director, didn’t want to make a typical science-ﬁction ﬁlm – he talks about having to rein in the design team who wanted to make futuristic props and gadgets. 6
Genres• There are elements of lots of different genres within the ﬁlm. Visually, much of it is shot like a documentary – HOW?• The sequence in the camp at Bexhill is reminiscent of the war genre - HOW?• It is also similar to a road movie - HOW? 7
GENRE• Genre is about repetition and variation.• It is conventional- the futuristic setting (repetition)• But there is variation here too – in terms of Cuaron’s vision of the future – it’s fairly recognisable to us.• It is different to other sci-ﬁ ﬁlms which feature more advanced technology. 8
Why can Children of Men bedescribed as a postmodern ﬁlm?• Lots of intertextual references. I.e. References to other texts from the worlds of Art, Graffiti, Music, Photography.• Which can you remember?
Postmodernism• Postmodernism argues that popular culture such as graﬁtti (street art)/pop music/TV etc. is equally as valid and important as High culture such as Opera/Classical music/ literature/ﬁne art etc.• It’s interesting whenTheo visits his cousin :• The ﬁrst work of art seen is a Banksy piece, there is the huge Michaelangelo sculpture of David, Picasso’s Guernica and a deliberate reference to a Pink Floyd album (Animals) in the background.• Thus, Cuaron seems to be deliberately suggesting that boundaries between high and popular culture are pointless. 11
Banksy• The ﬁrst piece we see is ‘British Cops Kissing’, a piece of graffiti art stencilled by infamous British satiricist and prankster Banksy. His art bears ironic representations of an oppressive surveillance society, Banksy has been a key ﬁgure in raising the status of graffiti to art. 13
Picasso• The next scene occurs in a decadent dining room, Picasso’s immense Guernica ﬁlling the background of the frame.• Guernica was Picasso’s expression of horror at the Nazi bombing of civilians in Guernica, Spain in 1937. Showed an intensely violent image of disﬁgurement and suffering,• Its apocalyptic sense reﬂects the ﬁlm’s narrative. 14
Intertextual references• In our postmodern age, we live in a world where we are surrounded by the media to such an extent that texts make frequent references to other texts.• Spotting these references rewards the audience’s cultural capital – they feel that they are in on the joke as it were. 15
Inter textual refs• A ﬁnal nod to fascist-inspired imagery occurs with the inclusion of Pink Floyd’s pig balloon ﬂoating outside the Battersea Power Station, as it did on the cover of their Orwell- inﬂuenced 1977 concept album Animals 16
More pictures at the prison: http:// www.antiwar.com /news/? articleid=8560Infamous picture from AbuGhraib prison in Iraq
Cuarón explains how he uses this imagery to propagate the themeby 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 isthis woman wailing, holding the body of her son in her arms. Thiswas a reference to a real photograph of a woman holding thebody of her son in the Balkans, crying with the corpse of her son.Its very obvious that when the photographer captured thatphotograph, he was referencing La Pietà, the Michelangelosculpture of Mary holding the corpse of Jesus.So: We have a reference to something that really happened, in theBalkans, which is itself a reference to the Michelangelo sculpture.At the same time, we use the sculpture of David early on, which isalso by Michelangelo, and we have of course the whole referenceto the Nativity. And so everything was referencing and cross-referencing, as much as we could.
How our media world features in in the ﬁlm• It features television and the news media prominently; the ﬁlm begins with fractured audio clips exclaiming horriﬁc news headlines, followed by onlookers glued to the screen at a coffee shop.• Television screens can be seen everywhere in the public urban space,• The character of Jasper (Michael Caine, who modelled the role after his personal friend John Lennon) is a former political cartoonist, lending credibility to his understanding of the government’s manipulation of news media.• His catatonic wife is a former photo journalist, allegedly tortured by her own government. (Both of these crucial character details must be ascertained with an observant eye during a slow pan through news clippings and photographs.)• Also visible in this pan is the postcard artwork of Leon Kuhn featuring the iconic Abu Graihb photograph of a hooded prisoner, arms stretched, cloaked in black, standing on a box with wires connected to his body 20
Music• In addition to classical pieces, the unconventional soundscape of Children of Men is littered with pop music.• Jasper, the aging hippie, is identiﬁed by his classic rock: Deep Purple’s “Hush” and the Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” echoes the ﬁlm’s conﬂicted multi-culturalism.• Many contemporary British acts known for their socially conscious lyrics are featured, including Radiohead, Aphex Twin, Roots Manuva, and The Kills.• Upon entrance to the refugee camp, the loudspeakers are heard to be playing the Libertine’s “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work shall set you free”), the Nazi slogan that was inscribed into the gates of many of the concentration camps. 21
A Sci-ﬁ ﬁlm without a resolution• In Children of Men it is absolutely clear that Governments around the world no longer have control of the societies that they govern – there is the sequence on the bus illustrating the world’s problems.• There is clearly the sense as the ﬁlm progresses that we are witnessing “escalating disorder.” 22
Why can Children of Men bedescribed as a postmodern ﬁlm?• Slightly unconventional narrative resolution. Protagonist (Theo) dies and it isn’t clear that the humans necessarily have much of a future despite Kee’s pregnancy.• For some audiences, undoubtedly unsatisfying.• Polysemic readings.• But - much of the narrative is conventional – it is in most respects the conventional linear narrative structure that is present in most Classic Realist Texts.
Why can Children of Men be described as a postmodern ﬁlm?• Because it challenges the distinction between high and popular culture by deliberately contrasting graffiti, sculpture, Fine Art and Pop music in the Ark of the Arts Scene.
Why can Children of Men bedescribed as a postmodern ﬁlm?• Because it is partly explores (or is about) the death of the grand narrative.• Grand narratives are concepts that explain progress, eg Marxism, religion.• Neither Science or Religion can provide an answer about why women are infertile nor can a solution be found.• The period of modernism saw huge faith being placed in Science, technology and rational thought – people believed that the human race would always continue to progress as they came to better understand Science and so on.• The argument is that in our postmodern society we no longer believe this.
Conclusion• Children of Men has some features that are associated with Postmodern Cinema.• Other ﬁlms have other features that are also considered postmodern that are not present in Children of Men.