DVD Transcript from Slavoj Zizek

The R1 DVD release of Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men features a 6-minute commentary from Zizek. Here it is-

(Background/Foreground)
“For me, Children of Men, I would say that the true focus of the film is there in the background, and it’s crucial to leave it as a background. Here comes his true art, Cuaron’s. It’s the paradox of what I would call this anamorphosis. If you look at the thing too directly at the oppressive social dimension, you don’t see it. You can see it in an oblique way only if it remains in the background. Children of Men is in a strange way a remake of Y Tu Mama Tambien. What attracted me immensely in to ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’ is this wonderful tension between foreground and background. That is to say if you look at the film superficially, foreground, it’s just a sexual adventure, with desperate ending, but you can not say it’s really a movie about two young boys rediscovering their sexuality, the meaning of their life, whatever. It’s the other way round. You see this absurdity of their life. It’s so clear that the way they experience their sexual traumas and so on, is against the background, it throws the light on these signs of oppression, and it’s the same, I think in this film. It’s not really that all this infertility and so on is just a pretext for, I don’t know, the hero’s inner journey from this apathetic anti-hero mode to more active engagement and so on. No, it’s…This fate of the individual here remains a kind of prism through which you see the background even more sharply.”

(All That’s Solid Melts Into the Air)
“I think that the film gives the best diagnosis of ideological despair of late capitalism, of a society without history. This, I think, is a true despair of the film. The true infertility is the very lack of meaningful historical experience, and that’s why I like this elegant point in the film of importing all the works of art. All those classical statues are there, but they are deprived of a world. They’re totally meaningless because what does it mean to have a statue of Michelangelo or whatever? It only works if it signals a certain world, and when this world is lacking, it’s nothing. It is against this background, I think that the film approaches the topic of immigration and so on. By setting the movie in England, only there, despair can be felt. England’s one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t have a constitution. Because it can rely on its substance of traditions, you don’t need it written. And in such a country, the loss of this historical dimension, the loss of this substance of meaning is felt much worse.”

(Novel and Film Adaptation)
“Two changes between the novel and the film I want to mention. It’s to replace the anti-hero hero’s best friend, Jasper. In the novel, he’s just a kind of retired ex-official, whatever. Here, to make him into this, and everybody who is the after ’68 generation knows what this is, this old, obscene, impotent retired hippie person…In all its ambiguity, on the one hand, many old leftists have fond memories of this generation, but, at the same time, there is something infertile, ridiculous about this. I think that the decadence started there in a way. This is a stroke of absolute genius. Another thing that I immensely appreciate, and this is a very risky thing to do, is to avoid sex. Here we have fertility reinstalled, but not through the form of a couple being created. The fertility is spiritual fertility. It’s to find the meaning of life and so on. So these are the reasons again for my admiration of the film, that precisely because it doesn’t directly make some kind of political, moralistic parable and so on and so on, it works perfectly.”

(Rootlessness)
“What I like is that the solution is the boat. It doesn’t have roots. It’s rootless. It floats around. This is, for me, the meaning of this wonderful metaphor, boat. The condition of the renewal means you cut your roots. That’s the solution. Look at films like Children of Men. This is the future. Only films like this can guarantee that cinema as art will really survive.

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