Watched Children of Men last night, Alfonso Cuaron’s loose adaptation of the P.D. James novel. Not exactly a celebratory film for a new seminary grad, but one that speaks volumes on the consequences of living in Adam. For anyone who likes using the implements of the culture to get to the gospel, this is a must-see.
By the year 2027, there have been no babies born in 18 years, attributable to some unexplored problem. The setting is London reminiscent of the worst of bombed out Berlin – or perhaps Baghdad; the other major world cities have collapsed. Warring groups roam the streets. Radicals and rebels working at cross purposes with unclear affiliations have created an atmosphere of utter anarchy. Immigrants are unwelcome, and caged for deportation. The plot revolves around a young woman who has somehow become pregnant, and has come under the protection of one of the groups. The hero, a suffering, deeply depressed alcoholic, Theo, played by Clive Owen, has been identified by his ex-lover, Julian (Julianne Moore), head of the group, as the only one the girl can trust. Owen is reluctantly dragged into the scheme to protect the girl, and get her to some vague haven called The Human Project, which no one seems to be able to verify actually exists.
More significant than the plot, which sputters out within the hour, is the bleak, rubble-filled atmosphere created by Cuaron, and the despair that pervades Theo’s soul. Whether cause or effect, a world with no one under 19 is hideous. Tenderness is gone. Depravity is no longer held in check. Those things we esteem as valuable – Cuaron uses Michaelangelo’s David as an in-your-face summary statement – are worthless with no future generation to buy them. Suicide pills are advertised like allergy remedies. Schools are abandoned buildings. (But, to reassure, everyone has a flat-screen TV, and the video games and ipods are better than ever.)
Whether or not Cuaron succeeds in making his political statement is debatable, but wittingly or unwittingly, he makes a remarkable theological one. The veil of civilization is thin indeed. Remove the meaning from life by doing away with future generations, and we become what we are in Adam. The “man is basically good” crowd will find nothing here to grab. Cuaron affirms T.S. Eliot: the world ends not with a bang, but a whimper, and a grotesquely sad one at that.
There are crowds of marching Muslims in this film, and a few half-baked pagan incantations, but no overt Christianity. Except. (Spoiler warning here . . . )
We have a terrified pregnant mother who jokes that hers is a virgin birth, a foster-protector who finds a hovel in which she is able to give birth amid the warring chaos outside, and an infant who is wrapped in swaddling clothes as they quickly are forced to flee. The cry of the child (OK, she happens to be a girl) silences the guns and warring for an instant, and she is ultimately seen to safety. This baby is not the savior of the world. But, she represents and points to the hope that is properly invested in the one who is.