Analyzing the Cinematography in Children of Men
Within Children of Men, the implementation of various stylistic elements from a cinematography standpoint allows Alfonso Cuarón to iterate subtle messages throughout the film. More specifically, the usage of combined camera angles and extended on-screen visuals adds together to encapsulate several themes including infertility, overpopulation, and global capitalism. This essay will seek to establish and describe the extent to which certain directorial and cinematographic decisions affect the communication of these themes. The essay will also investigate the modes of both primary and secondary analysis regarding the film’s cinematic inclusions as a way of developing an independent argument. These sources include direct statements from Cuarón, interviews with scholars on the themes portrayed within the film, as well as analysis attributed to members of the New York Film Academy. Furthermore, Cuarón’s usage of an anamorphic technique when shooting on a standard 35mm lens will be discussed in relation to how it supports the central argument. Through the combination of analysis from distinguished scholars and self-created inductions supported by evidence, this essay will clearly explain how specific cinematic inclusions work to support the previously addressed themes.
Filling in as a narrative device and precise visual aid, the camerawork within Children of Men drives the audience to concentrate on the fundamental characters of the film. This includes the ability to demonstrate empathy towards what they are encountering, as well as the ability to state objectively what is transpiring within the moment of action. Inside the established story, the visual effects allow everything related to the plot to be accounted for. Whether it be the inside of a moving vehicle, or a slither of light that is viewable through a seemingly obscure compartment, the audience is never left unsatiated with the amount of subject matter they receive through the film’s camera work. Several literary and cinematic scholars, including Slavoj Žižek, have commented on the survey-esque ability of the camera and how it’s supported both character and environmental development throughout the film. Žižek notices how “visual aesthetics play with the tension between foreground and background, in order to reveal grim truths about real-world life under contemporary capitalism that otherwise would not be representable to viewers in a more “direct” fashion” (Leow). Even the subtleties that exist within the encompassing environment, such as the the imagery of burning livestock that exists in the foreground, serves a purpose as to the holistic understanding of the film’s message. Cuarón’s ability to utilize these precise details when developing his protagonist is exactly what’s necessary towards defining the film’s purpose.
Children of Men plays cautiously with the inclusion of subtleties that relate to reality, and actual science fiction. This is observable with the way that Cuarón exhibits the foci of characters while juxtaposing them with their interactions within their environment. At several key moments, the films frontal qualities can tell less than what the overall camera captures. This not only affects the chain of importance surrounding each character, but it also makes their actions within their setting more significant. Through Theo’s perspective, an audience is able to act omnisciently, and witness clearly the statement that Cuarón is making regarding the potential demise of contemporary society. The film isn’t inherently selfish with its depiction of Theo as its protagonist, though. It’s able to establish a narrative that spans through various character arcs. Through this, the film surprises with its camerawork – a formal viewpoint that has been very much archived, however, often under-speculated with regards to the film’s narrative progression. Analyzing solely the methods of visual portrayal tells much more than the characters themselves know. This is Cuarón’s way of making sure that his camera action develops an inclination of pressure among both its characters and film-watchers (Cuarón). Both are encapsulated through this experience, which in essence, creates a balance between trope-expectation and genuine alteration to a predictable genre and narrative arc.One of the most recognizable and consistent styles seen throughout Children of Men is the presence of long, direct shots as the camera constantly pursues Theo as he navigates through the universe. This cinematic style develops a singular based lens in which the audience is able to observe this dystopian society
From the opening scene, the audience is able to witness Theo, singularly as an immediate character of the cast, leave a coffeehouse that explodes and causes great panic and controversy. With conventional Hollywood cinematography, the film could potentially depict various wide shots to set up the area outside of the café, yet with this single-shot style, the camera and its perspective are isolated (Dickerson). This allows the audience to witness the distinctive subtleties of the world without constraining themselves to solely what Theo is doing. Through eliminating continuous cuts, the audience is given a feeling that the occasions occurring on screen are totally unscripted and, luckily enough, the camera simply happens to be there as they are going on. Additionally, Hollywood’s traditional cinematic limits prevent a lot of holistic capturing of scenes. This, however, appears all throughout the film, especially through explicit segments of a room or road; the camera cuts between a several set points but also highlights 360 degrees of a situation. This anamorphic technique creates a universality within the film. Supplanting the cuts with a consistent shot that swivels through a whole scene creates a feeling of transparency; the world exists wherever the camera happens to turn and it is anything but difficult to trust that the world exists even past what is appeared or what is simply out of the picture.
Through Cuarón’s lens, Theo is pursued and simultaneously scopes out the city like somebody venturing out of the blue would be occupied by the inconsequential subtleties of the city. This free development further solidifies the feeling that the world does indeed exist, and if the camera was to maneuver only somewhat more the audience is convinced that it wouldn’t see a motion picture set (Cuarón). Rather than curtailing to Theo within the opening scene, the camera turns and makes up for lost time with the spot he has halted at in the city. The absence of cutting in this scene further develops a feeling of suddenness; here exists a tendency of belief in the circumstances that have just occured, allowing the audience to feel as though they haven’t missed whatever has occurred and that the precise quantity of time that has passed since Theo left the shop is known. The audience doesn’t feel deceived by this notion however, as the literal running motion made by the cinematographers accurately reflects the heightened paranoia of the situation.Each scene within Children of Men leads into another scene tailing it and no time is discarded from the progression of the story. Moreover, flashbacks are not utilized, a traditional staple of apocalyptic fiction. Each time the film embarks on a new scene and inevitably then onto the next, it isn’t inferred that the situations that occurred in the middle of the scene are simply completed and the scene that s new venture is beginning. This style likewise adds to sentiments of the audience in believing that what is occurring is plausible; the film demonstrates an entire story from beginning to end and nothing is forgotten. Since nothing is excluded, the audience is additionally given a feeling that everything is occurring progressively and that a clear progression is defined with Theo’s narrative. The camera development throughout the course of the film develops the thought that everything is displayed in an extremely abstract way before the film’s conclusion.
A case of this abstract camera development occurs when the vehicle Theo is entering is assaulted and the group inside is forced to escape through driving in reverse. At the point when the vehicle grinds to a halt, the camera gets out with Theo as he leaves the vehicle. The camera then sweeps the street and a group of dead mercenaries are seen, which leads the audience to have to infer through their previous understanding of character motives. Here, a duality is established, in that Cuarón understands that he can give his audience a lot through previously developing characters omnisciently (Cuarón). A moving camera can outline the occurrences of a scene without much, assuming any, adjustment in the blocking of each actor. Additionally, a moving camera can catch an assortment of shots inside a singular shot, consequently separating explicitly seen content exclusively from the periphery (Dickerson). In fact, it’s any small deviation in a scene, whether an actor makes a turn or not, that is highlighted through Cuarón’s camera. While Cuarón shot his vehicle scene in one shot, he kept in mind about shooting the necessary components that would prevent the scene from consistently being cut up. The innovative camerawork that Children of Men utilizes holds validity in doing beyond what is naturalized in contemporary cinema. It reaches out to the authenticity and thrill of the action that’s taking place and sets specific arrangements all through the film, giving an altogether successive flow.Conventionally within motion pictures, action scenes are altered to heighten the pace of the situation, usually with some type of musical arrangement to bolster the ongoing drama (Dickerson). This film’s action sequences, however, are established in edginess, with the notions of death and crisis being consistently present just through the setting.
A standout example of this, amongst the many scenes of action in Children of Men, occurs near the end of the film, in which Theo is escaping from the commotion of a firefight and advances up the stairs of a building to discover Kee with the infant. Again, here the absence of cuts in this arrangement makes the scene progressively powerful. Through observing this, the audience is centered totally around Theo and his survival as he evades an overwhelming flame. Cutting to various shots of battle or dramatic bursts of fire would draw consideration far from Theo and highlight the war itself, which holistically is irrelevant to the story. The absence of slices likewise enables the watcher to feel like they are going close by Theo progressively. Promptly following this scene, which is the longest shot in the film, is where altering is utilized to make importance between different pictures that wouldn’t exist in a solitary long take. With the broad utilization of long takes amid thrillingly poignant set pieces, the film makes a collection of juxtaposing cinematic decisions to convey the scenario at hand .The camera is essentially another performer here, transmitting data and responding to the occasions of the story similarly to how Theo must respond. It’s in the camera’s steady movement and looming dread, often in close spaces, where excitement builds up. The camera often winds up startled and displaced from the effect of a nearby, which encompasses focal point of progression previously iterated (and stays there all through the whole succession). Even blood on the camera is a decision that shakes the audience. It creates room for the question of “Did that really happen?” to be pondered. Each scene is intentional with both this individual touch and this abundance of detail.This is eventually one of the film’s persisting qualities; utilizing hyper-minute subtleties to establish the credibility of this critical reality for the audience. Within the film, capitalism is still thriving and the economy has only perpetuated the continuation of consumerism (Dickerson). For example, advertisements exists for clothing for animals, despite the widespread understanding of global population decline on the horizon. Another subtly that raises intrigue and suspicion can be observed when Theo calmly inquires as to whether Julian’s family was “in New York when it occurred”. “It” is never directly clarified, and it’s this substance, or lack thereof, that Cuarón uses to his advantage in creating suspense for his audience. Another notable scene in which the audience is left questioning what exactly happened occurs when an elderly, eastern European woman utilizes her native tongue to angrily sob and plead for her liberty. Once more, the audience does not comprehend everything, rather its feeling is emanated throughout. It’s through these simple moments of the unknown that allows the film to speak upon profound truths.
The camerawork of Children of Men, while expertly weaving through both what occurs within the imagination of the audience and what is displayed on screen, allows for room for discussion on the sociopolitical oddities of reality through the perspective of inspecting its own setting. A conundrum is thus created regarding the sociopolitical structure within reality. While free enterprise itself knows no outskirts, individuals and countries attempting to develop their own identities often must adopt a sectarian mindset. This involves confining and segregating people, especially through a unified mindset of discrimination of oppression. The outcasts within Children of Men are progressively uprooted by battle and are ready to face adversity together. This brings into question just how necessary actions like isolating groups within moments of international crisis is. In the film, these components are for the most part personally interconnected, which in turn has a lasting effect on the audience. It’s vital to distinguish this occurrence from what is front and center, which adds to Cuarón’s point. Is the audience actually observing what’s going on (detectable through the subtleties of cinematography) or do they think they know entirely what’s occurring? Children of Men acts more than just a cautionary tale: it makes its audience question the morality of the circumstances, especially if they occurred within reality.
The cinematography of Children of Men demonstrates the extent to which filmmaking can outline the fate of the world. This allows its audience to look inward and to speculate as to the choices and decisions made in a moment of crisis. Through the incorporation of an anamorphic lens, Cuarón gives the audience an omniscient understanding of what exactly is taking place. Cuarón leaves it up to the audience to notice the minutia and distinguish it as an imperative towards the narrative’s purpose. Through several long, unabrupted shots mixed in with expertly timed moments of realism and intrigue, Cuarón has created a contemporary masterpiece that calls all its spectators to have a moment of self-reflection.
Dickerson. William “The Moving Master: Deconstructing Children Of Men.” Student Resources. N. p., 2014. Web. 12 Dec.. 2018.Leow, Joanne et al. “Focalisation Realism And Narrative Asymmetry In Alfonso Cuarón’S Children Of Men.” Senses of Cinema. N. p., 2014. Web. 13 Dec. 2018.”The Vulture Transcript: Alfonso Cuarón On Children Of Men.” Vulture. N. p., 2018. Web. 12 Dec. 2018.
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