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August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

Children of Men
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I totally agree with Dustin: Children of Men was amazing. It presents a world so dark, so lost, so totally harrowing that the motes of kindness left all glow like stars.

Also, the camera work is unbelievable.

22 comments

Yep, it was fantastic. And if you’ve read the book, the movie is pretty thematically and tonally different. You can see traces of the book in the movie, and the narrative spine is the same, but otherwise, very different creatures, delivered 15 years apart, excellent in two distinct ways.

If you know nothing about it, the story goes: the last child on earth was born 18 years ago, and he just died in a bar fight. Without the prospect of generational renewal, society begins to violently consume itself.

Broadly speaking, the movie is a political thriller, and its prime target is xenophobia. Immigration and nationalism loom large from the very beginning. “The world has collapsed,” we’re told at the beginning. “Only Britain soldiers on,” mostly by ruthlessly enforcing a strict closed-border policy. Refugees are kept in lawless ghettos on the outskirts of Britain, transported there in buses labeled “Homeland Security.” But especially within the citizenry, everyone is bunkered up; fortresses and cages are everywhere; movement between counties requires impossible-to-get transit visas. It feels as though the characters spend 90% of the movie pressed against a wall.

The book, on the other hand, focuses on the themes of aging and childlessness. In one early moment omitted from the movie, we hear about the resurgence of the doll industry years after the fertility crisis made other toys scarce. People, it turns out, have been buying incredibly lifelike dolls and treating them like children. One of the lingering bits of violence from the book is when we hear of a woman seizing a doll from another woman’s stroller and shattering it against a wall, leaving the doll’s owner an emotional wreck.

In the book, the last generation of people to be born are known as the Omegas. Treated like gods in their youth, many of these people have become savage in their adulthood, and the older population fears them greatly. When I read the book, I was struck by this insight — American society in particular is almost religiously reverential towards its children. Then, shortly after childhood, our society’s youngest members become its most restricted and most feared.

The movie doesn’t focus much on the generational differences between the characters (or, for that matter, the racial differences; society’s gotten pretty post-racial 20 years down the line), but national differences are heavily emphasized. Then subverted — the most trustworthy person the two main characters encounter is a woman whose language they cannot speak.

I love the way the themes got shifted from one text to the other, as a Mexican male director in 2006 takes on a narrative invented by a British female novelist in 1992.

Justina says…

Glad to know I’m not the only one in awe of this movie. I’ve been telling everyone I know about it; at one point I tried to explain it as “12 Monkeys without the glitz.”

I’ve seen Children of Men twice already, at a sneak preview in the fall and last night on the second day it was open in Philly, and it is indeed outstanding.

Watching it the second time, I was surprised at how well-structured the film is: virtually everything that’s established pays off later in some way, but it almost always manages to surprise you anyways.

I also loved its terrific sense of gallows humor: the jokes, more than anything, help you to believe in the reality of the film’s world. They remind me of the Stalin-era jokes in the Soviet Union. Some of the jokes are funny because they’re so knowing, and others because they’re so naive.

Just saw it last night. Intense. Funny that Tim’s seen it twice already; I was going to say it’s one of those movies that I liked but couldn’t handle seeing again. Maybe in a few weeks though…

Lots of interesting comments already. I also thought the humor was amazing. My jaw literally dropped at the “fugees faces: sad faces” part. It was like “I can’t believe I’m laughing at this.” I also loved the Marika character; when Marika takes the baby for a few seconds and runs out the door, several people in my packed theater actually started screaming “no! no!”.

For me, although there were a lot of other things going on, it was mostly a classic quest narrative. It was hardcore folkloric in the repetition of one companion after another being sacrificed, left behind in a dogged quest to reach some extremely nebulous goal. The literal fog at the end plus the final sacrifice cap the point.

Jasper’s “faith vs. chaos” speech could, I presume, be seen as tying this all together.

Also, tip of the hat for the Shostakovitch and Prokofiev quotes; worked a lot better for me than the weird British music remixes. I guess it makes sense that people would want to recall the past. Interesting that the Anglos choose music from the “turbulent” 1960s. And interesting that the Russians listen to old Soviet music, not Tchaikovsky or something. Every movie from now on featuring hope in the face of chaos should quote Prokofiev Violin Concerto 2.

‘Hardcore folkloric.’ Excellent.

Jeez, I need to start actually thinking about things more. I mean, I’m used to blog entries being outshone by comments, but this one’s kind of ridiculous.

Speaking of the folkloric angle, I was reminded more than a few times of Dante’s Commedia, with two changes: Theo and Kee go through Purgatory before the Inferno (and only ambiguousy make it to Paradise) and the whole thing is told from Virgil’s point of view rather than Dante’s.

I liked the whole soundtrack, although it was a lot easier for me to spot John Lennon’s “Bring on the Lucie (Freeda People)” than Prokofiev. But it’s not just sixties and seventies stuff; there are more than a few “oldies” from the aughties, like Radiohead’s “Life in a Glass House” and Jarvis Cocker’s “Running the World.”

I don’t remember hearing the more recent stuff; is it diagetic? Shostakovitch 10, mvmt. 2, comes in right when the Russian guy first opens the window in the door, asks to see the baby, and tells them they have a boat. Prokofiev Violin 2, mvmt. 2, is the music over the ensuing scene in the apartment with the Russian grandma cutting oranges. Something about the filtering on these clips made me pretty sure it is diagetic. I guess even assuming it is, it’s still basically just Cuaron’s (or some production person’s) choices. Gotta say I found the diagetic music here more credible than in V for Vendetta.

Sorry: “diegetic”, not “diagetic”. D’oh.

My last post got eaten by Safari, but let me try again. (Peter, you’re gonna love this, ’cause you dropped the D-word on a lit/film scholar.)

One interesting thing about the music in “Children of Men” is that it bounces back and forth between diegetic and non-diegetic sources. (Diegetic is a word that comes from the study of narrative, and here refers to music with a clear or visible source within the narrative, like a radio or record player, and is usually picked up ambiently.) At least, “In the Court of the Crimson King” does that.

Radiohead’s “Life in a Glass House” plays on the radio at Jasper’s house when he and Theo first meet up, right before Jasper turns on his “Zen music.” It’s got a low, woozy horn part that’s sometimes compared to a New Orleans funeral dirge. It’s also one of the better songs from the Amnesiac album, but not on the official soundtrack.

There’s another diegetic song from the 00’s that plays on the car radio: the DJ says, “Here’s a song from 2003(?), from a time when people refused to believe that the future was just around the corner.” I believe but wouldn’t swear that it’s “Wait” by The Kills.

“Running the World” is kind of a cheat, because it plays over the end credits after “Bring on the Lucie” fades out. But it’s a brand new song, which is pretty cool.

Maybe if I had spelled it right the first time it wouldn’t be so obvious that I’m just a bio major who took one film lit class in undergrad…

I find diegetic music tends to be much more noticeable. I guess that’s not too surprising. Interesting from the director’s perspective though; if he really wants the audience to remember a particular soundtrack choice, maybe making it diegetic is one way.

I kind of like comparing Children of Men to V for Vendetta. If we want to know what it’s like to live in Fascist Britain 25 years in the future, now we have an abundance of imagery to choose from.

Diegetic music is more notable when it’s conspicuous — if the director or screenwriter calls attention to it in some way — but it can also be more discreet than nondiegetic music. Sometimes a character will briefly whistle a few notes from a song, or it’ll just be background noise, and you’ll really have to pay attention to it to pick it out.

The Royal Tenenbaums is a good example. All the diegetic music associated with Owen Wilson’s character Eli Cash is by The Clash (“Police and Thieves” at first, then “Rock the Casbah” towards the end of the film. In addition to being a good pun on Eli’s name, it works as a kind of leitmotif and commentary. It’s kind of a gag that “Police and Thieves” is playing while Eli’s buying drugs, and “Rock the Casbah” when he’s sharing cocaine with a bunch of Egyptian businessmen. But the repetition is fairly discreet: you don’t really pick up on it right away.

On the other hand, when Richie Tenenbaum meets his sister/love interest Margot at the bus station, Niko’s “These Days” plays, unsourced. The voice track goes silent and the film slows down, and Gwynneth Paltrow steps into the light, looking as beautiful as she ever has. The music is diegetic in a different, internal sense — we seem to be meant to think of the song as either being in or representing Richie’s thoughts when he sees Margot for the first time in years. It’s one of the best uses of pop music I’ve ever seen in film — but Wes Anderson finds a different way to make it part of the story.

I’m sure you’ve heard this — I think it’s great: The word is that Wes Anderson starts with a soundtrack — a list of songs he loves & feels form some sort of cohesive whole — and then builds a scenes around them.

Hot shit! A&L Daily has a link to a Herald-Tribune article on music in Hitchcock.

what the flip is the name of the song when Jasper plays,”Zen music” ??? I’m having an irritating time finding it!

doug carmichael says…

I missed the punchline of the joke in Clive and Michael’s first sit-down smoke. Something about a “stalk”?

Aaron Granat says…

I am also wondering about the Zen Music. That kind of stuff is right up my alley but it is not included in the score or the sountrack and I’ve had trouble finding any direct reference to it. Does anybody know? Also, does anybody understand the practical implications of the long take in the car? The camera seems to occupy the dashboard space and then does a 360 degree rotation before exiting through a window. I can’t wrap my mind around how this was acheived because there doesn’t appear to be enough room to fit a human operator and the movement is very smooth despite the turbulant events.

The “zen music” clip is an edit of the track ‘Omgyjya Switch7’ from Aphex Twin’s Drukqs record. Sounds like the sound designer added a layer of scream for added relaxation. 😉

Give it a listen (I hope this works!):

The “zen music” clip is an edit of the track ‘Omgyjya Switch7’ from Aphex Twin’s Drukqs record… Sounds like the sound designer added an extra layer of scream, just to make it more soothing 😉

Don says…

Well the way they did this camera movement is explained on wikipedia.com, they said it was very hard to achieve but it was all computerized. “The 2 1/2 minute, “roadside ambush”[14] scene was shot in one extended take with a special camera rig invented by Doggicam Systems, developed from Doggicam Systems’ Power Slide system.[15] For the scene, a vehicle was modified to enable seats to tilt and lower actors out of the way of the camera. The windshield of the car was designed to tilt out of the way to allow camera movement in and out through the front windscreen. A crew of four, including the DP and camera operator, rode on the roof. Although it has been commonly reported that this scene, and a later 6 minute climactic battle scene took place in one uncut shot,[16] unofficial sources indicate that the battle scene was captured in five separate takes over two locations, and then seamlessly stitched together to give the appearance of a single take.[17]” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children_of_men and i wasalso wondering what that”Zen music” song name is, i’m dieing to know!!!

G-rod says…

Yeah, this isn’t realy music related, but does anyone know if the man running after the car to the left, just before the bike crash and screaming during the ambush was Joe Rogan or not? I swear it has to be him.

Mikeykins says…

The “Zen song” is Omgjyva Switch7 by Aphex Twin.

The ‘Zen music’ Jasper fires up is also notable as the first Creative Commons-licensed audio sample used in a major studio release. The scream in question is called “male loud scream”, posted to the CC sound library Freesound by user thanvannispen.

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