Children of Men
Slavoj Žižek is perhaps one of the most original thinkers when it comes to the moral and political hazards of our hyper-modern world. So it comes as no surprise to me that he's thought a lot about Alfonso Cuarón's fascinating dystopia. Žižek writes:
Children of Men is obviously not a film about infertility as a biological problem. The infertility Cuaron’s film is about was diagnosed long ago by Friedrich Nietzsche, when he perceived how Western civilization is moving in the direction of the Last Man, an apathetic creature with no great passion or commitment: unable to dream, tired of life, he takes no risks, seeking only comfort and security, an expression of tolerance with one another: “A little poison now and then: that makes for pleasant dreams. And much poison at the end for a pleasant death. They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health. ‘We have discovered happiness,’ - say the Last Men, and they blink.”
So what went wrong with us? Any attentive reader of Marquis de Sade cannot help noticing the paradox of how the Sadean unconstrained assertion of sexuality, deprived of the last vestiges of spiritual transcendence, turns sexuality itself into a mechanic exercise lacking any authentic sensual passion. And is not a similar reversal clearly discernible in the deadlock of today's Last Men, "postmodern" individuals who reject all "higher" goals and dedicate their life to survival filled with more and more refined and artificially aroused pleasures? If the old hierarchic societies oppressed vital forces through their rigid ideological systems and the state apparatuses that enforced them, today’s societies are losing their vitality through their very permissive hedonism: everything is allowed, but decaffeinated, deprived of its substance.
So, to quote President Bush’s unforgettable Freudian condensation, do not misunderestimate Children of Men – Cuaron’s new film strikes at the very heart of our predicament.