Analyse the opening of the film Children Of Men (2006) up until the first shot of the Michael Caine (Jasper) character’s wife.
To start with, the screen is black with the opening titles showing, and then at around 00:35 the audience will begin to hear a voice-over two authoritative but emotive sounding voices who are telling a story, which can be assumed to be a news story. The viewer hears both a man and woman talking about illegal immigrants, and at 0:56 they are shown the first shot; of a group of middle aged to old people stood in a shop, all looking up and watching, what can be assumed as, a TV. The shop looks like some kind of coffee shop, with a fridge of food in the top right hand corner. The lighting portrays the room to be dark, dingy and potentially dirty, with the only visible light sources being the dull light from outside, a small light in the fridge and a glow from the two televisions in the room.
The audience are shown the people in the room from a high angle, which makes them seem inferior and weak, and gives a better view of them and their emotions. From their clothes, the viewer cannot tell whether this film is set during the 1940’s or in the future, a timeless scene, as they all look like typical working class people and there is no real indication of when this film is set. It can be assumed that the people are working by their bleak, washed out look, not one person in the shop is wearing a bright colour or patterned item of clothing, they all seem very plain and, almost, boring. The only indication of time is the colour televisions and it is not until the film moves to outside of the coffee shop that the audience began to see when this film is actually set. Every person in the coffee shop is looking directly at the TV; various different emotions portrayed on their faces as they listen to the saddening news that is being told, until a man walks in and pushes through the crowd to get to the counter. This man seems disinterested in the news until he has asked for his coffee, and then finally looks up at the TV. However, this vague interest disappears as soon as his coffee arrives, and then he walks back out onto the grimy streets of London.
On his way out of the door, the viewers see a bus go past with an advert along the side from “The British Organ Society”, which says “Kidneys £3,000 *INSTANT CASH*”; this implied that there is a great deal of poverty and the people living in this futuristic world are desperate. As we walks out of the shop, the diegetic noises of the world around him get louder. The camera follows him, in a hand-held, slightly bumpy and unbalanced manner. In the next scene, the audience get the mixed idea of the modern world; they are shown the date and where the film is set, “London, 16th November 2027”, and the viewer gets to see a combination of the two sides to the future. One side is the advanced technology, holograms and moving images on the sides of buses and on the buildings, but the other side is a darker, war-torn look to the streets that are shown, as they are dirty and the colouring of the screen are murky greens and blues, which makes the world look dull and bleak.
The camera follows this man until he stops and the camera walks around him and seems to show a POV shot of a person looking back down the street. The man stops to pour alcohol into his coffee and then a sudden loud noise and smoke shows a bomb blowing up the coffee shop that he had just left. The audience are exposed to a high pitched, piercing, ringing sound that gives the hint of the man’s ears ringing from the aftershock of the bomb, and on screen are shown a woman staggering out of the coffee shop with her arm in her other hand.
At 2:30, this goes straight to black with font that reads “CHILDREN OF MEN” in a contrasting, bright white text.
Next, to the left hand side of the screen, we see a queue of people waiting to hand over their identification to a man in a uniform. In the middle of the shot, on a pillar, we see a form of British propaganda, which again is echoing the idea of war and perhaps referencing the wars that Britain have already been through. The camera follows the man as he is scanned, then skips to inside his place of work. Once again, a hand-held camera is used to follow the man through the big open space, with a tense but sad soundtrack playing in the background, and allows the viewers to see the futuristic desk spaces, as well as the sad looking people who are all sat behind them. It appears that everyone in this film is affected by the death of “the youngest living human”, Baby Diego, except lead character of the man, as throughout the office space the diegetic sound of people sniffing and/or crying about the tragedy.
At work, he instantly seems to decide he does not want to be amongst the depressing atmosphere of his workplace, and goes to speak to his boss; the audience get the idea that his boss is a stereotypical British man, with cricket memorabilia littering his office, a cup of tea in his hand and eating biscuits. His boss lets him leave, and the viewers see the man get onto the train.
During the man’s train commute, a propaganda video is playing; this video shows scenes from cities across the world who all seem to be greatly affected by the things happening at the moment “THE WORLD HAS COLLAPSED”, but portrays Britain as the only country to be standing strong, “ONLY BRITAIN SOLDIERS ON”. The camera pans down from the TV screens on the train to the man, sat by him looking glum, this shot also shows the window next to him which has wire protecting the glass. His facial expression suggests that he is deep in thought, perhaps daydreaming, until a loud noise makes him jump and brings him back to the ‘real world’. A shot out of the window shows the train passing through a rough area, with fires burning and graffiti on the walls, and it is here that the audience see where the loud noises are coming from; some hooded people throw objects at the train as it goes by.
The film then cuts to the man getting off of the train. A hand-held camera is once again following him as he walks, creating the perspective of another person who appears to be following him, the ‘person’ glances to their left hand side, to look at some caged people. These people can be assumed to be the illegal immigrants mentioned previously in the news reports, by the diegetic sounds of them speaking in different languages as well as them being locked up and guarded by armed men. The next shot shows the man walking out from the train station, which looks more like a police station by the barbed wire and amount of guards. There are hints of colour here, dirty yellow cones and the yellow décor on the outside of the station.
As the camera turns to the right, following the man’s gaze, we see a bearded man resembling Emmett Brown (Doc) from Back To The Future, stood by a bright yellow car. This unknown man refers to the main character as “amigo”. He greets him as “Jasper”, with a hug. This is the first glimpse of another character who seems unordinary and different from the normality of everyone else. He is dressed in colours, unlike the working people we have seen previously, and, like the man, does not seem to be affected by the death of Diego.
The film cuts to an establishing shot of a film, with upbeat music playing in the background; the shot shows countryside, a field with trees in the background and a road between the two. Along this road, the audience see the bright yellow car from the previous scene, and begin to hear a voice-over of Jasper and the man talking. As the camera continues to track the car, we see piles of cattle being burnt, hooves in the area. The film then uses a shot reverse shot to show the pair talking inside the car, rock music playing in the background. The conversation soon moves to the bomb, and Baby Diego, calling him a “wanker”, and the pair began to joke about those around them who were affected by the news, then move on quickly as Jasper makes a fart joke. This seems to show how different these two men are from the rest of the world, they do not seem to care for the others around them, and seem to be disconnected from the horrific events happening in their everyday lives. The two shot pans to the left, showing a bus full of caged illegal immigrants, showing how poorly they are treated, almost like cattle. Jasper speaks about them briefly, before the music becomes louder again, contrasting the mood of the immigrants, as a shot of the man shows his blank and vaguely interested facial expression. The viewer then sees the car drive into a lay-by, music being muffled as if you and genuinely stood looking at the car.
Both men are shown getting out of Jasper’s car, again this is being shot on a handheld camera, giving the effect that the audience are there watching them, and see them moving trees from some kind of hidden entrance. This is mysterious and encourages the viewers to both be confused and intrigued, wanting to find out what is behind the trees, how the two men know about it, and why it is being hidden. Whilst moving the trees, the music can still be heard, and the two men are talking loudly about the main character’s love interest, or his lack thereof.
Another establishing shot is used to show the car driving through a wooded area, in-keeping with the air of mystery that the entrance to this ‘secret’ road gave. The sound of birds can be heard in the background, along with music and voices from within the car, but other than this it is quiet; this is a complete contrast from the busy city scenes that we previously saw. The voice-over of the men reveals how the main man seems to be a very solitary person, and his repetitive life of waking up, feeling like shit, going to work, feeling the shit. Whilst Jasper jokily hits back that it’s a hangover, but the man continues with his depressing tone by saying “at least when I have a hangover I feel something”. The car is shown driving up to an opening, and the shot shows us back into the car, as they drive up to a house.
The next scene is set inside of the house that the audience had just seen the outside of. Classic music is loudly playing whilst the camera pans across a collection of photos and newspaper clippings of a woman and Jasper in his younger years. It can be assumed that this woman is the wife of Jasper. They show the personal achievements of Jasper and his wife, along with articles about infertility and some other pieces of new that were mentioned in the new report at the beginning of the film. This makes the viewer’s assume that the person who is looking at these is connected to them in some way, then in the next shot the audience are shown an old lady who they will believe to be his wife, and that the previous shot was from her perspective.
From the small part of the film that I watched of ‘Children Of Men’, I get an almost apocalyptic feeling the scenes in London, and I feel as if the world people now live in is more of a dystopia than a utopia. As the film is set in the future, it is a science fiction but it is mixed with thriller/ action as there are aspects of the film that are very tense due to the political parts of the film, mixed with the threat of human extinction because of infertility.