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Alfonso Cuaron Discusses "Children of Men"

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Alfonso Cuaron Discusses

Director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki and director Alfonso Cuaron on the set of "Children of Men."

© Universal Pictures

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Designing the Future in Children of Men: “That was the most difficult thing in terms of the design," explained Alfonso Cuaron. "On the one hand, how to create a reality that if you are watching and you know that the convention is that the film takes place in the future, how you accept that that is the future without alienating the sense of today? That was the biggest challenge. How not to create supersonic cars that will transport you emotionally and in terms of your imagination, but to make cars that if you look closely that they feel like today. But if you look closely, you say, ‘Oh, I’ve never seen that car.’ That was the toughest balance. But it’s not only about the cars, it’s about how far you push the billboards. You know, I wanted the billboards to look like today but at the same time they have to honor the fact that the story is taking place 20 years from now.

The other thing was the constant referential thing. When I started working on the film, the first meeting with the art department, they came up with the most amazing… I think that they heard that it was a movie of the future and they undusted all these concept designs – beautiful supersonic cars, buildings, the whole thing. They were really beautiful but I said, ‘This is not the movie we’re doing. The movie we’re doing is this.’ And inside I had my own file of photographs from Iraq, from Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Somalia, Chernobyl, and I mean this is the movie we’re doing. And the rule #1 in this film is that whatever we see has to have a visual reference of stuff that now has become part of human consciousness. It’s an iconography that mostly came out of the media. So that was the balance, how to make it the future but feel today. As Emmanuel Lubezki, my cinematographer, kept saying, ‘We cannot afford to have one single film frame,’ meaning 24 frames per second, so one single photogram, ‘that is not commenting about the state of things.’ That was the big challenge.”

Alfonso Cuaron on P.D. James’ Novel: “The truth of the matter is I didn’t respond to the material. I was not interested in doing a science fiction film and also the book takes place in a very posh universe. I respect, I love P.D. James. I enjoy the book, but I couldn’t see myself making that movie. And, nevertheless, the premise of infertility kept on haunting me for weeks and weeks and weeks. Maybe three weeks I was in Santa Barbara, on one beach in Santa Barbara, when I questioned myself, ‘Why [does] this premise haunt me so much?’ It’s when I realized that the premise could serve as a metaphor for the fading sense of hope that humanity has today, that’s when I said, ‘Okay, this can be the point of departure for talking about the state of things today.’

The next stage was to try to explore what the state of things are. You don’t have to go very far to learn that environment and immigration are two of the main factors that are shaping this world, and that are actually very connected. If the environment keeps on going the way that we’re going, it’s actually going to make the immigration phenomenon even more acute. So that was the point of departure.

I’m very thankful of P.D. James because she inspired me so much with her premise. Now from the moment in which we started exploring this, then we have to craft a parallel story. Not necessarily the story that was in the book, because we need to honor the story that had to do with the immigration phenomena. We created the whole thing of the refugees, and we created the whole thing of Kee as a refugee, the whole thing of the refugee camp. Let me put it this way, in the book, Kee doesn’t exist. In the book who’s pregnant is Julianne Moore. We just took a big departure there.”

According to Cuaron, P.D. James is happy with Cuaron’s big screen adaptation of her novel. “She’s a big endorser of the movie. She made a statement in which she says, ‘It’s obvious that this film departed from the book, but I’m so proud to be associated with this film.’ She really understood that in a way we took an elaboration of her own premise. So the core of everything is her book.”

Plans for the Children of Men DVD: “When you do films with this approach, in a way there’s a certain amount of precision that is required. It’s not that you do coverage and you have a lot of other material that you might or might not use. You know, it’s just a very precise choreography. The exciting part of it is that as a director I try to create the perfect choreography, but then it’s about the accidents that make the scene happen. You know, whatever you choreographed but didn’t happen or there was an accident. You rely on people like Clive Owen who would take the accidents and elevate the accidents into something better. So we have some in the DVD, definitely we have.

The DVD is very interesting because we have a couple of scenes that didn’t make it into the film. Not longer versions of the scenes that you saw, because that was the length of those scenes. But the most interesting thing is that we are doing in the DVD a documentary about the things that put together the film. We’re doing interviews with people…and pretty much they’re not talking to us about the film, but they are commenting about the state of things. In other words, it’s like a documentary approach to what the film is about.”

Page 3: On Harry Potter and His Friends Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro Inarritu

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