Descent into deep time

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The new squirrels? (photo by ldpix)

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Vancouver after a 14m rise in sea levels. Flood maps by Alex Tingle (via WOEBOT).

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Erotics of annihilation. Diesel ‘Global Warming Ready’ ad campaign.

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Children of Men
Finally managed to see Children of Men this past week, a full month after its North American release. It more than lived up to my high expectations, although I missed good chunks of the quieter dialogue parts thanks to a barely functioning sound system and the girl behind us whispering at her boyfriend for the full 109 minutes. More disturbing than annoying was the amount of inappropriate giggling amongst the crowd – at violence, cultural juxtapositions, signifiers of social breakdown – at any unsettling moment designed by CuarĂ³n to provoke consideration of the unspoken facets of the catastrophe being depicted. It’s a funny film at times, but these weren’t the funny bits. The musical parts that I’d been looking forward to were well placed, but disappointingly short – brief snatches of Digital Mystikz and Random Trio. I missed Warrior Queen and the Bug altogether. But I had to grin at Kode9 and Space Ape as pub music. Maybe in 2027.

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K-Punk rightly notes that part of film’s strength lies in the fact that “the theme of sterility must be read metaphorically, as the displacement of another kind of anxiety.” Certainly part of the film’s poignancy right now derives from the ease with which the crisis it depicts can switched out for a variety of contemporary realities and nascent possibilities – catastrophic climate change, terrorism/security culture, ethnic/religious struggles, nuclear war. Infertility could even be the fallout of an earlier disaster. And five years after the founding the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp – a site that functions as much as a carceral spectacle as it does a prison – the only out-of-the-ordinary sight in the Bexhill prison scene was the hooding and abuse of a caucasian Westerner. What makes Children of Men so powerful is that so many of the ingredients of the 2027 dystopia are already such quotidian facts of global popular culture.

Interesting too that only humans appear to be infertile in 2027. There are deer, birds, dogs, and cats, including a long moment with a kitten bent on climbing Theo’s pant leg. Why is it then that it’s only humans who cannot reproduce? I’ve not read the PD James novel, but this might speak to a scenario in which man, specifically, has fallen from Grace. But this religious dimension is deprivileged in the film with the result that the pervasiveness of other, apparently fertile life forms, contributes to the sense that the problem of infertility is in fact intended to stand in for any number of more immediately threatening catastrophic scenarios. By eliding the issue of climate change, for instance, the film manages to avoid seeming pedantic (“a fictional Inconvenient Truth“) or trendy (“an artsy The Day After Tomorrow“) while suggesting, that much more forcefully, what such a cataclysm could realistically entail. More broadly, the film’s numerous animal extras serve as a reminder that the end of humanity is not necessarily the end of life on earth; it’s merely a regime change.

One Response to “Descent into deep time”

  1. Tranquera Says:

    Easy Paul! I liked those scenes near the end of the film… The tension is really strong…