Friday, November 16, 2007

Revisiting the real best film of 2006


I haven't yet read P.D. James' 1992 novel The Children of Men, and after seeing the movie a second time, I'm not sure I want to. This is a departure for me, but the movie's such a cinematic tour de force I can't see how the book would not pale in comparison. It may be one of the rare cases (Blade Runner is another) where the screen adaptation outperforms the source material by a large margin.

I saw Children of Men on the big screen just after Christmas last year. At the time, I was blown away by three long single-shot sequences that appeared almost impossibly complex to choreograph. I've since discovered that a bit of editing was involved in each, but those scenes delivered such a visceral punch that I was determined to see them again. So thanks to my friends at Netflix, I watched the movie a second time last night, this time on the small screen.

Bottom line: This is still the best film of 2006, and I'm still incredulous that it earned no Oscars (it was nominated for three, including best adapted screenplay). Even on my aging 27-inch Akai, the brisk pacing and taut documentary style seem undiminished. Because it's set in 2027, it's fair to call this science-fiction, but it's more than that -- it's also a political thriller and a road movie with a social consciousness. Its vision of a fortress state where horrific deeds are committed in the name of "homeland security" remains all too resonant. I liked The Departed too (which did win best picture), but Children of Men is a much more significant work.

I know the film is based only loosely on P.D. James' book, but here's a question for those who have experienced both: Which is the better story? And why?

5 comments:

Maxine said...

I liked this film, too -- but I wish it hadn't ended when it did.

I read the book years and years ago (it's an old book) -- so can't really remember it, except I agree that it was completely, almost totally, different from the film. I think its focus was much more on the events described near the beginning of the film, about a small group of people and their various inter-parental guilts. I keep meaning to read the book again but never quite getting round to it. I am sure it was much more focused on the religious aspects and less on the sci fi, though.

Dave K. said...

This was my hunch -- the book had to be a lot more cerebral. But then that's what books do, don't they? I'm still going to read it. Soon as I see it at the library.

Peter said...

The movie impressed me mightily, too, and I flipped through the novel shortly thereafter. I seem to recall two (probably) insignificant differences between book and movie: the person whose death plunges the city into mourning at the beginning is a different age in the novel, and the underlying cause of the whole mess also differs. In one, the men are impotent, in the other the woman are infertile.

I hope I'm not misremembering that.

Also, the marchers shouting "Allahu akbar!" in the movie were almost surely a topical touch not around when P.D. James wrote the novel.

This is off-topic, but I remember one other movie adaptation that beat the pants off the book: Election. The movie was a funny comedy with lots of bite (and one of Reese Witherspoon's early starring roles). Having enjoyed it so much, I bought the novel and found it a plodding, mannered workshop exercise: Eact character gets a chapter, etc.
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Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Dave K. said...

Election is one of those movies I watch every time it's on. It's a classic. I had no idea it was based on a book.

Peter said...

Yep, the author was Tom Perrotta.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/