Dec 25, 2006 Children of Men goes on limited US release
“In 2006, however, the film was a commercial flop. It grossed less than $70 million, a huge loss for a film that cost $76 million to make. At Oscar time, it was largely overlooked, earning three nominations but none for acting, directing, or for Best Picture. Its studio, Universal, never quite figured out how to sell it — an astoundingly bleak sci-fi picture devoid of fun gadgets or futuristic set design, in which Julianne Moore, the most marketable star, gets shot dead 28 minutes in.” – Abraham Riesman, vulture.com
True, Children of Men is bleak, filmed in muted colours, without hoverboards or flying cars. It’s set in a depressing London, even more rubbish-strewn than normal, ruled by a totalitarian, anti-immigrant government. Filmed in 2006 it is set in 2027 (and looks very much like 2018) The film did well at the British box-office but failed to do so in the United States though critics were strong in their praise for the film.
In the wake of the European migrant crisis of 2015, the British withdrawal from the European Union of the late mid-to-late 2010s, and the election of Donald Trump in 2016, all of which involved divisive debates about immigration and increasing border enforcement, several commentators reappraised the film’s importance, with some calling it “prescient”
“I thought director Alfonso Cuarón’s film of P.D. James’ futuristic political-fable novel was good when it opened in 2006. After repeated viewings, I know Children of Men is indisputably great … No movie this decade was more redolent of sorrowful beauty and exhilarating action. You don’t just watch the car ambush scene (pure camera wizardry)—you live inside it. That’s Cuarón’s magic: He makes you believe.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone June 29, 2010
It was directed by Alfonso Cuarón. who was one of the five writers working on a screenplay based on P. D. James’ 1992 novel, Clive Owen, who played the central character Theo Faron, spent several weeks collaborating with Cuarón and Sexton on his role. Impressed by Owen’s creative insights, Cuarón and co-writer Sexton brought him on board as an uncredited writer.
“I started writing the project in 2001 – and yes, the mental factor in the writing of this film was September 11 obviously. Because of those events, it was important to set the film in more of a 21st century, than a 20th century, because the world as we know it has changed considerably since then. It was difficult because people with amazing concepts and imagination came in and suggested some wild things – but I just didn’t want imagination in this movie, I wanted reference. I wanted a future that didn’t automatically tell the audience it was the future, the audience had to figure it out for themselves – for instance, though the cars are from the future, they look almost normal, it’s hard to spot their differences. We didn’t want to do a future that was about the future – but about the present”. – Alfonso Cuarón interview, moviehole.net
The project was not green-lit by Universal. Cuarón was invited by Warner Brothers to direct the third Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004″, an offer which he accepted after some consideration. The film would prove to be the greatest box office success of his career. “While I was doing Harry Potter, they called me. The producers called me and said they need to keep the project alive. Harry Potter gave me more space for research. Because once you get into the Harry Potter world, it’s very intellectually intensive the first few months that you have to put everything together. Then, after that is a long time that is just like clockwork machinery. You go to work certain hours. It gave me time.”
“The sound and production design lay the groundwork for a convincing dystopia, but it’s Cuarón’s daring, fluid camera that brings this terrible world to life. Without being showy about it, he creates two of the most virtuoso single-shot chase sequences I’ve ever seen. So virtuoso, in fact, that as the scenes are unfolding, all you can think is, sweet Jesus, please let the good guys get away! It’s only later that you realize the technique that went into crafting that sickening suspense.” Dana Stevens, Slate, December 21, 2006
“The bombing scene, the scene at the beginning of the movie where the bomb goes off, was the worst day’s filming. It was really upsetting for everybody because it was close after the bombings and I was amazed we actually got permission because it was a big explosion and we were right in the centre of London and it was just incredibly eerie and awful and it’s very poignant. I think it’s a very incredibly sort of poignant and profound opening to the movie to have that happen and set the tone and say ‘This is the world we live in. This is 30years’ time and this is the world we live in.” – Clive Owen interview, Collider.com
The street battle where Clive Owen has to take cover in a battered building caused concern for the studio as it took fourteen days to prepare this one shot, with a delay of five hours every time it had to be reset. It was shot over the course of two days, but only one complete take was actually captured on film. In the middle of one take, some stage blood spattered on the camera lens. Alfonso Cuarón nearly ruined this take by shouting “Cut!” but his voice was obliterated by the sound of tank and gunfire. Looking at the footage, Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki persuaded Cuarón to leave the shot with the blood_spattered lens in, and that is the shot that appears in the final film.
“Right in the thick of it are me and the camera operator because we’re doing this very complicated, very specific dance which, when we come to shoot, we have to make feel completely random.” – Clive Owen
“Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations./Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God./Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men./For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night….” – Psalm 90