Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dystopian dilemmas

With many predominantly Caucasian Western countries concerned about immigration, and European countries in particular concerned about their low birth rates, it seems logical that those two concerns would be brought together, first in a novel, then in a movie. I haven't read the book, but I saw the movie last night on DVD. "Children of Men" takes those issues to extremes--a world in which infertility and immigration are the only issues anyone cares much about. I suppose that there's an unspoken metaphor for First World countries becoming impotent and sterile when they close their borders, needing infusions of life from the Third World. I don't know that the metaphor really works precisely with the entire world infertile, so maybe I'm reading too much in. I don't know.

The movie opens with the death of the youngest person on Earth, an 18 year old. For an unknown reason, the world has became completely infertile in 2008-09. Why, exactly, is a source of some conversation in the movie. The movie ends with the first birth in 18 years, to an African woman who evidently is an illegal immigrant to Great Britain. A pro-immigration terrorist organization plans to smuggle the woman to an underground fertility organization. Our reluctant hero, Theo (Clive Owen) is shanghaied to assist the woman, and there are several post twists along the way.

My viewing of the movie was informed somewhat by a couple of things. First, I recalled reading about some recent research suggesting that my own childrens' disabilities may have beeen caused by genetic quirks that, in turn, may have been caused by environmental events. Moreover, many parents of autistic children believe that childhood vaccines either caused their childrens' disorders or triggered whatever genetic predisposition may have been there. So I suppose anything is possible. Fortunately, however, the only truly universal environmental phenomenon of which I'm aware is global warming, which doesn't appear to have any genetic consequences. Second, all aspects of modern civilization pretty much collapsed around here in August 2005; I was thinking a little about that as I watched the brutality of the government and the deplorable living conditions of the illegal aliens in the film. If you think it can't happen here, you could be wrong.

"Children of Men" raises questions about the environment and, more directly, about migrations of people from the Third World to the First. For me, the movie was more provocative and thought-provoking about the latter question than was "Babel." It also presents a society without hope for a meaningful future. There is even a suicide drug in the film. It made me reflect on what a gift life, and future generations, really are. "Babel" was somewhat more hopeful, anyway. This is a movie that you'll think about for a while after seeing it, whether or not you agree with its politics. The acting, directing, and writing are quite good, and the action moves along at a good clip. Much of the story is told in the background visuals, which is a great technique. Check it out.

1 comment:

Maddy said...

I saw the trailers and I think it must be based on a book that I read a couple of years ago.
I may have to make a date and go and see it.