Smaller Screen, Bigger (and Different) Impact: Another Long and Fluid Walk with Children of Men

My favorite film of 2006 has just hit the shelves on DVD, fresh off it’s ridiculous shutout at the Oscars. The Children of Men release has a few documentaries, including a stunning short on the constructing of two long take sequences. The rig Cuaron and his crew built for the car sequence in the woods is nothing short of breathtaking. Which brings me to a segue-way. Since Children of Men has such genius visuals, I wondered how it would translate to the small screen. Like all great films, it got better the second time around, and this small screen experience heightened other aspects once overwhelmed by the awe-inspiring big screen mise-en-scene. Here are a few notes.- The long take sequences as a whole are diminished somewhat on the small screen, mainly because Cuaron has crafted them specifically for a theater experience. But their resonance and relationship with the story still holds water, especially the opening shot explosion.- Michael Caine’s performance as Jasper became a more central part to the story this time. His moments with Theo at the beginning, his character’s choice of music (The Beetles, Radiohead), and later in the film during his parting scene, all add up to the heart and soul of the old guard. Jasper’s collection of appearances in Children of Men create a heartbreaking duality with Theo, and his final tap on the car window, holding his outstretched palm up to Kee’s, elaborates and deepens Curaron’s interest in human connection.- Overall, the humanity of Children of Men shines through even brighter on a repeat viewing, at times overshadowing the brilliant camera work. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the actor’s faces as they maneuver Cuaron’s crashing world – Julian’s face as her neck gushes with blood, Kee’s look of fear as a guard dog sniffs her pregnant belly, and Jasper’s kiss on his wife’s cheek before her last breath. Throughout many of the scenes Theo’s looks of desperation ring louder than the gunshots spraying around him. Even the gypsy lady with the dog, who saves the day toward the end of the film, is crucial to Cuaron’s vision.- Most of all, the pacing of Children of Men is astoundingly focused, a singular trajectory which plays directly into the films themes and motifs. Cuaron purposefully propels Theo into action and he never stops evolving after the first act. I’ve heard complaints about the characters and how one-note they are. I couldn’t disagree more. I didn’t feel more connected and enthralled with a film’s journey than with Children of Men, and for me, that’s what film should be about – even more so when the world is tumbling down before your eyes. This is a masterpiece.

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