Children of Men is Alfonso Cuarón’s finest work. Laced in subtext and situation, the film presents a different view of the world as it was shaped by the dangers of technology and the rise of violence in the world around us. In its own idiosyncratic way, the film presents an alternative view of the world at large, creating a new form of cinema that was prescient and deeply reverent of the way things were done in their particular time frame.
But the film also holds a tasty homage to Pink Floyd, when a flying pig appears outside a window during a particularly scintillating scene. The pig is an obvious throwback to the days when Roger Waters used a pig to decorate the audience. The pig symbolised character, contradiction, the collapse of a moral society and capitalistic greed, all emblems of the film in question. The pig holds a tasty throwback to the days when the band were the most exciting and expressive band in Britain, but it was also the way in which the band were curating and creating a new lexicon of music that they admitted to the failings and foibles of the past.
The animal encapsulated another form of narrative, one in which the creatures and characters could come together in one particular voice. As a way of pre-empting the greed and the foibles of the world in question, the pig in tone created a new form of dialogue between audience and participant, whether it was the pig in question or the musicians creating a dialogue between them and the audience.
The gaps between cinema and character were closing in recent times, and the metaphors were being presented as a pig in the guise of a portable floating device. The device underlined the shifting tones, changing political allegiances and codes of conduct between the characters in question, and there are no other animals in the field of rock that capture the imagination quite as vividly or as giddily as the pig does. It could only have presented one thing in the film: rock music.
Cinema races on a similar level to rock, and Cuarón features have been known for bringing in a certain level of pathos and pain to the proceedings. He hired The Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown to cameo in Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban.
But the pig in Children of Men is more impactful, precisely because it is so pointed and positioned with great poise, congratulating the eagle-eyed in the audience to bring their reality into the realm of the film’s own space. What it allowed was a sincere sense of pathos and persuasion, meaning that there are other ways to break the fourth wall beyond the ordinary way of looking at a camera and “winking.”
As fourth wall breakers go, this is one of the cleverer occurrences in recent years, provided that the audience is shrewd enough and smart enough to see that it is a fourth wall break. Where it stems from is the idea that artists can be filmmakers, as Roger Waters has long proven his intentions over the years.
Waters dabbled at other art forms during his life, whether it was the scintillating The Wall, directed by Alan Parker, or his worthy attempt at an opera, Ça Ira. In his own way, the scene shows Cuarón congratulating the bassist on his desire to bring the world of pop and cinema closer together. This was Cuarón’s way of saying that cinema and pop were not that far removed from one another, and all that mattered was the perception- and more importantly, reception – of the audience in question.
Children of Men also boasts a tightly coiled script, one that flows better than Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. Typically, the Academy Awards recognised the senior filmmaker over the junior director, and the best performance of his career was undervalued by the board for a more tried and tested formula that wasn’t even the best mob film in the director’s canon.
But the film also luxuriates in holding a foothold in the world we inhabit, culminating in a dystopian sci-fi film that may prove truthful in the future.
“That is the thing, to contrive the story of infertility we needed to set it in the future,” Cuarón admitted. “Now we wanted to set it in such a near future that everything would be recognisable as today. We tried to avoid completely high-tech scenario. When I started working on the film, I met with the art department, and they undusted all the old rejections from science fiction movies they had done; they were so excited to do this movie that took place in the future. They started showing me all these amazing things.”