There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Children of Men on the bus

Finished reading P.D. James' 1992 novel "The Children of Men" while riding the bus. I had picked up the book because I had recently watched the 2006 movie of the same name. After I finished the book I watched the movie again.

A crime has been committed. I hope they paid James a lot of money for the use of the title to her book and the names of a handful of characters because the movie has next to nothing, literally, from the book beyond the book's starting point.

The story takes place in 2021, some 25 years after the last human being was born. Since then, no man has been able to make a woman pregnant. No one knows why. There are simply no more children of men.

James does an excellent job of describing the despair that would follow as the human race realizes that there will be no next generation. When the people alive today die, that will be the extinction of mankind.

"You are a historian. You know what evils have been perpetrated through the ages to ensure the survival of nations, sects, religions, even of individual families. Whatever man has done for good or ill has been done in the knowledge that he has been formed by history, that his life-span is brief, uncertain, insubstantial, but that there will be a future, for the nation, for the race, for the tribe. That hope has finally gone except in the minds of fools and fanatics. Man is diminished if he lives without knowledge of his past; without hope of a future he becomes a beast."
Much of the book is an exploration of the struggle between what needs to be done when man has become beast and the corruption that comes from ultimate power.

Movie director Alfonso Cuaron gets top billing among the five people credited for the screenplay. I can understand why he took the easy way out. Surely a movie that actually required some subtlety would have been much more difficult to make.

Rolling Stone's review gushed praise for the movie:
One of the pleasures of modern movies is watching an artist like Cuaron at work. In the spellbinding Children of Men, his best film to date, Cuaron, 45, fills every frame with his passion and intellect. Here's a movie that grabs you hard, pops your eyes, provokes your mind and ultimately lifts your spirits. As director and co-writer, Cuaron takes on a 1992 novel by P.D. James set in 2027 in battle-battered England, the only country left to soldier on in the face of massive terrorism, immigrant invasion and global infertility (no child has been born since 2009).

The movie is cheap and violent where the book is thoughtful and poignant. If you haven't seen the movie, don't. Read the book. It is a fascinating exploration of despair and hope, faith and doubt, cruelty and love.


Queen of Dysfunction said...

I started to watch the movie and turned it off. The premise seemed promising but to be honest, the movie came across as so much cheap propaganda. I don't mind a strong viewpoint in film, but don't insult my intelligence.

I am definitely going to pick up the book though. Sounds like a good read.

John said...

The movie is a funhouse mirror of the book.

The "terrorists" in the book are a group of five idealistic people who naively think they can effect change. They don't blow up coffee shops killing innocent people (the opening scene of the movie). The name "Fishes" is a reference to their somewhat Christian motivation.

The realization that the majority of the people don't want the changes they want is a major component of the book. The other is the responsibility of authority, of being responsible for others.

I'll stop now so that I don't spoil the book for you.