By: Alfonso Cuaron
Loosely based on the novel of the same name, Children of Men, directed by Alfonso
Cuaron, is an apocalyptic film where mass infertility has plagued the world and
threatened to end humanity. The film, while not a box office hit, received two
Academy Award nominations because of its visually stunning cinematography and
creative direction. Cuaron utilizes different aspects within the film, including the
use of motorcycles, characters, and lighting & color to symbolize resiliency,
life, and death. While subtle, this symbolism helps develop the plot, while playing
to the apocalyptic genre.
“In great apocalyptic myths we see that not only death,
but resurrection is usually involved in the story” (Silverberg, 2010, p. 2). This
idea of hope and resiliency is found throughout Children of Men and subtly
symbolized by the scattered use of Honda Cub motorcycles. Within the first three
minutes of the film, in the busy, chaotic streets of the United Kingdom, seven
three-wheeled Honda Cubs are shown. The motorcycles are always seen as a means of
transportation, whether transporting goods or people, including two of the movie’s
main characters, Kee and Theo. Kee, the world’s last remaining pregnant woman, is
shown going into labor while being transported through a ghetto on a Cub. This
symbolizes hope within the motorcycle, itself. Although the Cub is subtle
throughout, it plays a prevalent role and illustrates the theme of resiliency. The
motorcycles seem to be some of the only positive constants amongst the chaos that
has overtaken the world.
Cuaron’s uses of characters symbolize both life and death
in Children of Men. The last generation of newborns, referred to as the “Omegas,” is
depicted as a hostile, violent group of society in the film. The term, “Omegas,” of
biblical origin, is both ironic and fitting for the movie. While they are the
youngest generation, they symbolize the end of the human race. To counteract this
apocalyptic theme, Cuaron also symbolizes life and hope within several of the main
characters. Kee, the only pregnant woman in the world, symbolizes a new day and a
future for the human race. Cuaron successfully portrays these themes through his
depiction of characters.
Emmanuel Lubezki, the cinematographer of Children of Men,
utilized lighting and color throughout the film to create a genuine feeling and a
sense of reality for the apocalyptic narrative. From the beginning, the viewer is
shown a society where over pollution has created a smog filled, dreary environment,
symbolizing death, which fits the apocalyptic theme. While minimal, there are
several scenes where sunshine is utilized, symbolizing life and hope. This plays to
the aforementioned idea that in these apocalyptic narratives, “not only death but
resurrection” can be found, and in this film, the sunshine symbolizes the
“resurrection” of life.
Children of Men creates a frightening reality that our world
could face in the near future. This sense of kairos is created and successfully
portrayed by Cuaron’s use of characters, motorcycles, and cinematography. The theme
of life and death play a dominant role in the apocalyptic genre, and this film
utilizes these themes to create not only a visually stunning film, but a very
thrilling, critically acclaimed piece of art.
Silverberg, Robert. "Dancing Through
The Apocalypse ." Introduction. The End of The World. By Silverberg. Ed. Martin H.
Greenberg. New York : Skyhorse Publishing, 2010. 1-5. Print.
Reviewer: Britton Byfield