We just chatted about Children of Men (on the John Plays the Piano podcast) and here’s what we thought.
The 2006 movie was based off a novel written in 1992, but it feels even more relevant today in 2017.
The film was better (and by “better” we mean “more interesting”) because of the following changes:
1. Women are infertile (whereas in the book, men have stopped producing sperm). This changes whose story it is. The focus becomes about the woman, and this particular detail stood out…Kee, the first pregnant woman in 18 years, says she had never seen a pregnant woman before and that she didn’t even know what was happening to herself at first. She also didn’t feel like she could tell anyone. This is a much more harrowing and interesting story angle (to us on JPTP) versus the premise of P.D. James’ novel, wherein a man steps forward to win a political game with his magic sperm.
2. Theo wasn’t such a creep. In the book, Theo acts a bit creepy toward the pregnant woman — versus Clive Owen, who we get to see in three different stages — we see him still presently grieving over his child’s death, we see him grieve newly as a widower, and we see a glimpse of him acting like a father toward the end, before he dies, as he teaches Kee to burp her baby.
3. The film tells an emotional story versus the book’s political one. The book focuses on egalitarianism and a man becoming the king of London (also, the book never really shows much of a dystopia — you don’t get a feel for how the world is coping as you do with the film and its post apocalyptic imagery). The film allows Theo (Clive Owen) 15-30 seconds to grieve for his ex-wife, Juliane (Julianne Moore), then 10-15 seconds to grieve for his old friend Jasper (Michael Caine), then 5-10 seconds to grieve for Miriam (Pam Ferris), then almost no time at all to grieve for Mirchka, the woman with the dog, as she is likely killed by the jets bombing the prison just beyond the fog — in fact, we don’t give it a single thought — by the end, we don’t have time to grieve. We have to keep moving forward in order to survive, just as Theo has learned. The pay off? Kee names her child, the first in the world to be born in 18 years, Dylan, the same name of Theo’s once living child.
4. The film is still relevant 11 years later, arguably more so in 2017. There is a specific scene that sticks out, and it’s after one of the most memorable long shots that lasts over six minutes during the film’s climax. Theo and Kee arrive at Bexhill Prison and they get separated. This scene was largely influenced by the Iraq War and the imagery mimics a war flick, where the characters we know and care for are simply trying to stay alive. Once Theo reunites with Kee, we hear the baby crying. And eventually so does everyone else. The battlefield quiets to the occasional gunfire in the far distance. Everyone watches this baby cry in stunned silence as Kee and Theo walk safely out of the area. For a moment, everyone has quit fighting — this is why they are fighting, after all, isn’t it? But then there’s an explosion. An RPG fires and the warring continues. Kee and Theo run off to the boat. War goes on. It’s here we realize that the premise of the film (women not bearing children) is just another excuse for people to kill one another over. The world was descending into chaos regardless. One child is not going to fix everything. However, it is a symbol of hope. When Theo asked why the baby was crying, Kee said, “He’s annoyed.” The child is annoyed with the insufferable violence of man.
We went way more in depth on the podcast, and it’s a fun and lively discussion interspersed with audio clips from the film, as all of our episodes are. John Plays the Piano has 7 episodes so far — we’ve discussed and picked apart Being John Malkovich, Small Soldiers, Mulholland Drive, Brazil, True Stories, Drive, and Bronson — we’re taking suggestions, too. We’ll talk about what you want to talk about. That’s why we do this in the first place.
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