Children of Men: Background Imagery

Children of Men is as much about the background as it is about the foreground. Although the long takes and movie itself is a linear path through Theo, the camera takes moments to stray away from that path and let the viewer into the world that exists. When he is walking through the streets, all of a sudden we are not with him anymore but rather we are taking in the reality of the place. People standing in cages, people in lines being refused refuge by authority surrounding them, buildings in shambles. It is this straying away from Theo that we make the connections with the world that Theo is living in. This method takes us away from what Theo sees and creates a new way of experiencing the film, through the eyes of the camera. It is through the background that we relate to the world of refuges and xenophobia. The graphics of the background connect with us even years after this film was made because this issue is one that has yet to be resolved or is nowhere near to resolution.

Additionally the background provides us with artistically connected background that further the depth of world deterioration and fail of the human race. For example when Theo visits his cousin a pig floats in the background making a visual comparison to the Pink Flyod album Animals which was based loosely on George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Which many know was about Stalinism and the rise of a reign of terror. This all makes a statement in the background of Children of Men. Additionally, the Michelangelo’s David, Picasso’s Guernica which was an anit-war painting that completely surrounded Theo at the table.

These two methods of background stories and strong artistic connections about war, beauty, and destruction come together in the scene when Theo passes by the mother crying with her child it complete pain and terror. Again Theo is moving linearly to his destination to save the child and mother while the camera detours to the mother with her dead child. This scene, Cuarón said was inspired by a photograph out of
the Balkan wars, itself a reference to Michelangelo’s work. Cuarón puts this art connection on the ground, a stark contrast to before when it was up in a fortress of Theo’s cousins place. It’s in the scene that we have left Theo, left the journey we have been on with him to take in a scene so real we can’t help but experience the pain with the mother. Whether we make the visual connections in the first viewing the depth of the long shots and the straying from the linear journey that we are on with Theo is what builds this story. This raises the question if the film would have been as successful with shorter takes, not allowing for the camera to divert it’s attention. Would the world building have been as successful if we did not have the chance to take in Theo’s world without Theo? It is likely that not. It is even possible the action film would have taken a stronger role than the dystopian/sci-fi genre.

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