So, I went with Linda to see Children of Men yesterday. If I could go back in time and tell myself what I was about to experience, I’m not sure I’d want to, since I think my lack of foreknowledge probably added to the movie’s impact. But I’ll say this: The movie is absolutely riveting. That’s a cliché, I know, but in this case it’s apt. There was an almost physical sense of being bolted into my seat for what was (and yeah, I know it’s another cliché) a ride. And not a fun, squeals-of-joy thrill park ride, but an intense, forward-rushing journey into and through and out the other side of a dark, violent, intense place that you simply have to experience to understand.
I don’t want to get hung up on technique, because that doesn’t really do the movie justice. It’s more than the sum of its parts. But having been through the transformation I feel compelled to talk about it, and what do you talk about? You talk about the nuts and bolts, the trappings and artifice, because you hope it will connect with the person you’re talking to and get them to go on the ride themselves, and then they’ll know why you’re so excitetd.
I’ve always been a sucker for the long, unbroken shot. I get giddy watching the several-minutes-long set pieces in the recent Pride and Prejudice, for example. But in Children of Men there are so many long, unbroken shots that I lost track. Indeed, I was so caught up in the story unfolding that I don’t think I even noticed most of them. It’s only now, as I watch the clips from the movie and read interviews with Clive Owen and Director Alfonso Cuarón that I realize that many of the movie’s most-intense moments, images that are seared into my brain (again with the apt clichés), were actually delivered in unbroken, hand-held sequences that last as long as 12 minutes. Twelve minutes.
I don’t want to go all film-school geeky about this. Again, it’s not so much the technique. Children of Men isn’t merely realistic; it’s real. And it’s what Cuarón has chosen to do with that reality that has left me so stunned.
I don’t think I’m really conveying what I want to convey about the movie. I keep thinking of different things I could say about it. I could say that it has replaced Blade Runner atop my personal list of amazing, immersive visions of the near-future, and not just replaced it, but obliterated it, but that comparison (while an obvious one to make, which is why many people are making it) isn’t really fair to either movie. Children of Men isn’t competing with Blade Runner, and shouldn’t have to. But for what it’s worth, if you’re making me choose, I have to choose Children of Men.
And none of this, again, really gets at the heart of what this movie does. I’m forced to turn to someone else’s words. From Miss(ed) Manners’ What I did over Christmas vacation:
You’re terrified, but you feel for the characters, even though they are only sugar.
That’s my reaction to Children of Men. I can’t wait to see this movie again, to immerse myself in the world it creates, not because the world it creates is a particularly nice place to visit (very much the opposite), but to experience again the black magic that lets a person go somewhere like that without actually going anywhere.
See this movie.