Paranoia and Cynicism in “Children of Men”

As Hoberman describes in “Cine Paranoia: Conspiracies Unmasked” the countless political assassinations, kidnappings, and other scandals of the 1960s and 1970s whipped the United States into a paranoid frenzy.  Hoberman describes how distrust of the government and others in power intruded into the world of Hollywood, with films like Chinatown displaying powerful sentiments of cynicism and paranoia. He also mentions how the real world Watergate scandals showed Americans that even those we trust the most such as our president could be corrupted.

Though perhaps not tackling these subjects directly, Alfonso Curaon’s fantastic Children of Men displays themes of paranoia and cynicism. Set in the not too distant future of 2027, Men shows us an Earth in which humans have been unable to have children for years, and mankind is slowly dying out. With the death of the youngest person on the planet on the mind’s of everyone, there is an almost universal cynicism in Cuaron’s bleak, subtly futuristic world, which is certainly understandable. With no foreseeable future, terrorism runs rampant with building explosions, theft, and groups lashing out against the government. But Cliove Owen’s Theo is roped into a plan to save a young woman who is mysteriously pregnant from the government who would most likely imprison the woman and child and use them for scientific and propagandist means in the militaristic state that is the UK.

The scene above takes place after the group Theo is working with lost a few of its members, including Theo’s former lover played by Julianne Moore.  As the group, the “Fishes,” decide how to smuggle the girl out of the country, tensions run high, and this scene demonstrates a political and personal paranoia. The meeting room itself is in a secluded home out in the country, far away from where any ruling presence could possibly spy on them, or so they hope. Yet even one of the first lines of dialogue spoken by Fishes member Luke showcases the prevalence of paranoia when he says, “It’s only a matter of time before they find us,” in reference to patrolling police squads.

As the group debates what to do with the baby, bits of dialogue sprinkled throughout hint at the worried, fearful state they find themselves in, and their tone implies a large amount of cynicism about a hopeful outcome. “The government will take the baby and parade some posh black English lady as the mother,” says one of the Fishes as Theo tries to reason with them to make the information public. Other members of the meeting also rapidly shoot down Theo’s suggestions with biting pessimism. They remind him of the government’s poor treatment of immigrants like the pregnant girl, Kee.

From the manner in which the Fishes discuss the government, their situation, and their plans, the film’s paranoia is clear. The militaristic regime who is not adverse to locking immigrants and criminals in communal cages is not seen in this clip, but their presence looms throughout the film both when they are on and off screen.

And of course, cynicism is not far behind the paranoia. The world of Men is dilapidated, as buildings lay in ruin and litter and debris cover the streets and sidewalks. With the human race believed to be dying out, it becomes quite easy for the film’s characters to believe their lives as meaningless. If no one will inherit or prosper from their actions, what is the point in caring about almost anything? Characters do drugs with reckless abandon, raiders attack passing cars to kill and steal, and a general anarchic mood permeates the world.

This clip presents only a snippet at the paranoia and cynicism that are major aspects of Children of Men. The film itself is excellent in its own right, and overall actually presents much more positive ideas of hope and salvation. Yet it also touches upon many of the themes we have discussed in class. The political fear is not blatant, but it does direct the group’s plans as they attempt to save the unborn child. As they live in a world that believes them to be terrorist, they also possess a personal paranoia, unsure of who can be trusted to carry out the mission.

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