(The) Children of Men


A few days ago, my wife and I saw Children of Men, a movie loosely based on P.D. James‘ novel The Children of Men. I’d read the book a few years ago, wasn’t terribly impressed with it, but wanted to give the movie a chance.

As I’d forgotten a few of the finer points of the book, I felt that the movie was a close adaptation. If you read the plot synopses of both, though, you’ll find out that the movie changes the characters quite a lot. In my opinion that doesn’t quite matter, though, because the plot revolves more around roles than characters, meaning that characters are pretty much interchangable as long as their roles are played out. The movie also changes a few important plot points, but still I get the impression that the spirit of the book is kept alive.

And that led me to think about what bothered me1 about the book in the first place, because it’s similarly apparent in the movie: there’s not a single theme to the story.

That’s not to say there is no theme to the story, there are in fact many, many of them. All are centered around the setting of the novel, a future where humans cannot reproduce any longer, for whatever reason (no spoiler here). Not wanting to spoil the plot for anyone who’s not read the book or seen the movie, there’s a further development in the setting, which starts off the plot. Whatever themes are explored in the story revolve around the initial setting or this further development.

The themes explored range to the simple question of what will people do when faced with extinction, through religion, to the more basic themes of human relationships. There are so many themes that it becomes hard to decide whether the story actually explores them, or whether it’s just your mind associating one such theme with the story elements being portrayed. And that’s an art in itself worthy of appreciation.

However, at the end of it, I’m left to wonder what it really was that I was watching. I get this mental image of this very eloquent person trying desperately under a barrage of questions not to express any opinion of his own. That’s pretty much the effect the book and the movie had on me, as if the creators were unwilling to take any position.

Now both are very well done, entertaining, thought-provoking, pretty much whatever you’d expect from a good story.

So here’s the question, then: if you’ve either read the book or seen the movie, what do you think the central theme is? And did you like how it was brought across?

  1. It didn’t bother my wife though. So maybe it’s just me. []
  • http://www.bookembargo.com Shrimpy

    I liked the sound of the book, and wanted to go see the movie… I shall have to watch it and see how I like it!

    Shrimpy’s last blog post..Minerva Louise, a silly chicken

    • http://www.unwesen.de/ unwesen

      Yep, do, it’s definitely worth it.