By: Christopher West
Movies, like all forms of art, reveal something of the human soul. They can be a kind of confession. Our sins, our fears, our inner contradictions, our worst nightmares — all the kinds of things that people don’t talk about in “polite” conversation — often find an outlet, consciously or unconsciously, on the big screen.
An Outlet for our Souls, A Reflection of our World
In early January of 2007, a movie called The Children of Men offered just such a “confession.” It taps into the inevitable psychological disturbance that stems from our culture’s widespread disregard for new life and the seemingly omnipresent preference for sterilized sex. Having sex: nothing better — having babies: nothing worse. Doesn’t this pretty much sum up the way the world thinks? The schizophrenia inherent in such a blatant bucking of reality is bound to cause major brain spasms. And these major brains spasms can turn into a major motion picture like this one. “In twenty years, women are infertile. No children. No future. No hope. But all that can change in a heartbeat.” That’s the caption that appears above a small human life pictured in-utero on the promotional poster for The Children of Men. The poster alone is an amazingly powerful pro-life message from the mainstream entertainment industry.
In an interview, Clive Owen, who plays the movie’s reluctant hero Theo, observed: “The film is looking at the way we’re heading and saying, ‘We should be careful.’” We should be careful to examine what children give the world and why so many people prefer to avoid them. We should be careful to examine what we value. We should be careful to consider what is at stake when we prefer sterilized sex to the God-given, family oriented, baby-making kind. Could it be the future of civilization? In one of the more chilling scenes of the film, Theo and another woman find themselves in a long-abandoned elementary school. The building is in shambles. The playground is overgrown. Only slowly does it dawn on the viewer — the school is falling apart because there are no children in school, and there are no children in school because there are no children! In the midst of this bleakness, the woman laments to Theo, “It’s very odd what happens in the world without children’s voices.”
…and A Little Child Will Lead Them
Odd — and horrific. The entire world has gone berserk. Governments have collapsed. Anarchy reigns. Terrorists rule. Humanity’s only hope is revealed when a young African woman named Kee is discovered to be pregnant. Having never seen a pregnant woman before, she had no reference for what was happening within her. But, as she says, she “just knew” there was new life inside. When Michael Caine’s character meets Kee he proclaims, “Your baby is the miracle the whole world has been waiting for.” The messianic tones are unmistakable. (By the way, Children of Men was released in the big city markets on Christmas day. Coincidence?) In the midst of a dark and despairing picture, the birth of Kee’s child seemed to fill the theater with hope. One could almost sense a collective sigh of relief.
Still, one leaves the movie with a lot of unanswered questions. As director Alfonso Cuaron said, “I didn’t want to give any answers. I wanted to force the audience to explore what they think is really happening [in our world] right now, bringing out not only the social responsibility but the individual’s responsibility….I wanted to explore the fading sense of hope in humanity today,” Cuaron said. “The child serves as a message of hope and infertility shows the little respect we have for human life right now.” Cuaron then concluded, “I believe that children are the only hope for humanity, their sense of innocence, their sense of faith….”
This message comes through beautifully when Kee’s crying newborn stops the fighting in the streets. Hardened soldiers, many of whom would never have seen or heard a crying baby, fall to their knees in adoration and amazement. One of them blesses himself with the sign of the cross. History has changed “in a heartbeat.” And Hollywood has given us something critically important to think about.