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Children of Men Film Essay

Children of Men is a thought provoking film directed by Alfonso Cuaron which explored the possibility of hope in the face of overwhelming despair. The film has a fearful, chaotic mood within the setting of a dystopian world in London 2027. Visual and verbal techniques such as camera techniques, diegetic and non-diegetic sound, and symbolism were effectively used across the film. Cuaron used these techniques to show the audience that the search for self preservation demonstrates ignorance for the good of humanity. However, Even though morality is lost when the world deteriorates, hope can still be found in mankind’s bleakest moments; as the darkness of humanity cannot exist without the light, which shows that it’s future.

In a world where the deterioration of humanity has caused destruction to a society, people tried to hold on to the last bit of hope while having to survive in the abyss of despair. An example is the diegetic sound of a news reporter on TV in a coffee shop, reporting the tragic death of Baby Diego. “The world was stunned today by the death of Diego Ricardo. Diego Ricardo, the youngest person on the planet was 18 years, 4 months, 20 days, 16 hours and 8 minutes old”. By stating Diego’s age to the exact minute, the reporter emphasizes his significance as he was the youngest person alive after 18 years of infertility. Cuaron used this technique to enlarge the great grief and devastation that the rest of the world suffers due to the tragic event. Making the audience see that the fragile fate of humanity has been dealt a shattering blow, it looks as if mankind’s last flicker of hope has been extinguished along with Diego’s death, and the species of human race will perish.

Another successful sound effect used by Cuaron was tinnitus. This verbal technique is a ringing sound one hears when ears are damaged after loud noises, and it was used after the bomb explosion in the coffee shop. The tinnitus is sympathizing as the ringing sound is heard by Theo as well as the audience, relating the audience to Theo’s experience and making them more involved in the film. This technique is symbolic as Cuaron expresses that the dull reality prevents us from hearing our surroundings, foreshadowing Theo’s numb emotion and reaction towards the situation. Cuaron used this technique to highlight the fearful and chaotic environment, constantly reminding audience the death and despair Theo experienced. The film is very much relatable to our society as the destructed world in the film does not seem so distant from our own. Cuaron makes the audience realize that if we are not careful and take care of crucial issues, it is possible that similar situations in the film could become our future.

The frequent use of visual techniques by Cuaron also developed the despairing environment in the film. One example is a reverse angle shot of Theo and the suicide kit Quietus at Jasper’s house. The suicide kit was handed out by the government, showing that even the government had no intention of dealing with existing issues and preferred the easy way out. The white and pale blue colour of Quietus symbolizes peacefulness, showing that instead of keep living in the abyss of desperation, people would rather die to escape the corrupted world. This is appalling to the audiences as Cuaron makes them realize that life was no longer important in the gloomy society of the film. Without hope and faith for the future, the only control people had when facing despair was the option of suicide. Another example that develops the idea of despair is the use of a mid shot out of the bus to Bexhill. The mid shot shows refuges caught by immigration police; locked up in cages, beaten and shot.

This technique reinforces audience to see the visual allusions created by Cuaron, as the situation is somewhat similar to the Nazi roundups. With the use of this visual technique, Cuaron is able to show us a world where government control has become so powerful that humanity no longer exists, and the inhuman treatments that the immigrants received were not noticed or cared by British citizens. The refugees were hidden away from society and irresponsibly dealt with so the issue doesn’t have to be taken care of. Cuaron’s purpose is for the audience to see that society tends to, and is, ignoring larger issues which cause discomfort simply because it is the easy way out. However, we all have the responsibility to help each other out and solve existing issues within the community, in order to bring right and justice to the society.

There are also hopeful situations throughout the film. This can be explored by the use of non diegetic music “Fragments of a Prayer” as Kee symbolically revealed her pregnancy to Theo in a barn. The music was implemented several times in the film during moments of hope. The holy shrill voices of the song manipulates viewer to believe that there is always hope as Kee undid her clothes to show her miraculous pregnancy. Theo’s dialogue of “Jesus Christ” after he saw Kee’s belly symbolically brings realization of biblical allusion to the audience. Surrounded by sheep and cows, Kee was the connotation of Virgin Mary. The similarities allow viewer a deeper understanding of how important Kee’s pregnancy was to mankind, in both cases it was the carrier of humanity’s savior that was in undergoing the long journey. Cuaron also used lighting techniques to highlight the unborn baby’s representation of hope midst despair.

The chiaroscuro lighting creates a light shade effect during the revelation of the baby. Darkness in the barn emphasized a patch light on Kee’s belly. Her glowing belly seemed radiate shine, making it look angelic. Cuaron successfully used these techniques to tell the audience that Kee’s pregnancy was a brief moment of humanity allowed that existed in a world determined to tear itself apart. A further biblical reference is Theo’s similarities to Jesus. His character is non-violent, despite being surrounded by guns and bombs. While defending and protecting Kee, he never used or carried weapons. Theo was also consistently surrounded by animals, which are used throughout the film as indicators of goodness and trustworthiness. By using these Christianity symbols, Cuaron reveals a cautious faith in humanity in the characterization of Theo as he came to demonstrate man’s best attributes, compassion, self-sacrifice and hope. Another example which develops the idea of hope is the establishing shot of Kee, the baby and Theo on the boat staggering towards the Ship of Tomorrow to get to the Human Project.

The non diegetic music of “Fragments of a Prayer” was again used, setting ablaze to hope as Kee was getting closer to safety. When Kee questioned whether they were too late, Theo answered “Trust me, they’ll come back”. This dialogue contrasts with his dialogue earlier in the film “Why do people believe this crap… Too late the world went to shit”. Cuaron used this contrast to show the change in Theo to which he was no longer numb about the corrupted world and finally found hope and faith for the future. This provides the audience with catharsis, and it is a release from action to allow viewer to believe that everything will get better. Cuaron’s purpose is for the audience to understand that dread and fear can have a damaging effect on society but is also a driving force behind the vital change needed to save our planet. We should always hope but think and act now because the final result is up to us.

In conclusion, a variety of visual and verbal techniques were used by Cuaron throughout Children of Men. These techniques created a destructed and gloomy society which allows viewers to seek through the failure of future construction along with the bleak and brilliant of hope and humanity. Revealing how humanity’s nature and glory is essential in order for human race to maintain faith and stay in a balance of compatibility. Challenging viewers to consider the effect of manmade actions on the current world and how it is shaping the future.

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