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CHILDREN OF MEN

Design
Shooting the London of today provides a near monolithic set of challenges to filmmakers…add to that the fact that the setting of Children of Men is a proposed London 21 years in the future, and it becomes apparent that the production design and cinematographic teams were faced with their own sets of hurdles to overcome. The result is a world of inherent sadness that colors every frame of Cuarón's film, from Emmanuel Lubezki's photography to Geoffrey Kirkland and Jim Clay's design.

2027 Britain is a society breaking down, a collision of new modern and traditional looks stitched together by the trappings of a police state. In some ways, it resembles a post-war landscape, with a reversion to a tribal way of life where people are merely trying to survive. Yet Cuarón is quick to point out, "We don't have one iconic element in the film that is not from the present.”

To some, designing a film 500 years in the future might be considered easier than one to two decades ahead. To render such a world realistically, a thoughtful blending of current and futuristic must be created, planting viewers firmly in the "yet to be,” but also anchoring them with recognizable, everyday touchstones from the "now.” For example, Cuarón and his design team chose as one of the "hero” cars (or one with leading camera time) a Fiat Multipla because of its quirky shape, now slightly tweaked by the art department. The clothing designed by Jany Temime also reflects a recognizable world of the near future, yet one in disarray. It was reasoned that such commonplace objects as a car and clothes would not have altered that drastically in 21 years. The result is a world with subtle changes and few signposts—with a lot of it looking very much the same.

The job of production designers Kirkland and Clay was to create and provide an expansive, reality-based world full of texture, one with sufficient space to allow for the action of the story. Clay says, "It was very exciting and very challenging for the whole crew, because we were charged with knitting together a series of shots that should hopefully become seamless as one timeless piece of action. Alfonso has a brilliant eye for detail and sometimes, when you're designing the bigger picture, you forget to put in those detailed elements. He's constantly reminding us what makes it real.”

Michael Caine observes, "The detail on the set is down to Cuarón. I was watching him one day and he spent ten minutes placing postcards around the back of us so they'd be seen in a shot. It didn't mean anything to us, but it's important to him and for the look of his film.”

Production designer Clay says, "We had to find locations that served all the actions, which are always very clearly in Alfonso's head from his writing of the screenplay. One of my greatest challenges has been to join all of the pieces together in a convincing way.”

*****

The dangers Children of Men proposes may not be so very far down the road. Continents falling to disease, incessant fights over immigration and the natural weather balance tipping out of control are not problems of the future. Indeed, some medical evidence is pointing toward an increased rate of infertility among women, possibly due to poor diet, substance abuse and pollution.

Such wake-up calls are not lost on the cast and crew of Children of Men. As the youngest cast member, Ashitey comments, "What is incredibly scary about the world created in Children of Men is the response and the reaction of the government to what happens globally. Instead of pulling together and helping each other, it goes completely the other way. It really is a frightening prospect—that selfishness and isolationism win out over charity and goodness.”

That vision is the product of a filmmaker who wisely chose a style that does not comment on the action

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