Our original Comparative Study Guide is now OUT OF PRINT.

We have a photocopiable version of this title in our International Series. The original notes for the Comparative Study are provided free in PDF format.

This pack contains a photocopiable Student's Guide and a Teacher's Commentary

In the Student's Guide the film is segmented into units of 10-15 minutes duration. This facilitates work in the normal class period. There is a series of questions for each sequence that guides the viewing of the students and encourage them to keep a personal Response Journal.

The Teacher's Commentary is a well researched separate booklet which covers issues raised in the guide.

Each pack is priced @ € 35.00, postage free. Titles are shipped on receipt of payment. Delivery is by Standard Post: next-day delivery in Ireland, and 2-10 days for international orders.

 

 

Extract from Teacher's Commentary: 

SEQUENCE 1 (DVD Chapters 1/2: 10 mins)
A DAY IN THE LIFE
Let the film roll until the night-time shot of Jasper's house

Over a black screen the urgent voice of a newsreader is heard: “Day one thousand of the siege of Seattle. The Muslim Community demands an end to the army’s occupation of mosques. The Homeland Security Bill is ratified. (Credits begin.) After eight years British borders will remain closed. The deportation of illegal immigrants will continue. Good morning. Our lead story …” The visual track starts at this point. We hear that the world has been stunned by the news of the murder of the youngest person on the planet. The screen shows people packed into a crowded coffee shop and the newsreader continues with the story of Baby Diego Ricardo who was murdered in Buenos Aires by a fan outraged when he was refused an autograph. An old lady holds her dog, a man drapes his arm around the shoulder of his girlfriend, two English bobbies stand at the rear. All stare intently at a television screen out of frame to the right. We can see another screen at the back of the shop over the door. The sense of a world in crisis that was generated by the news headlines is increased by the image that opens the visual track of the film. A man enters and makes his way to the counter to order his coffee. He does not seem as wrapped up in the news bulletin as the other customers and annoys a woman who is standing at the front of the group engrossed in the broadcast. Then he, too, looks up at the screen that so enthrals the other customers. The first cut in the scene follows his gaze and shows footage of Baby Diego’s life story. The musical score begins and plays over this montage reflecting the sadness that the customers feel at the news. (This theme will recur in the next scene and is becomes associated with Baby Diego.)  Sobs and sniffles can be heard along with the musical theme as the dates 2009-2027 appear on the screen. The logo on the television screen shows the name of the broadcasting company: BCC. (Throughout the film we will be presented with details that are the same as, or very similar to, features of the world we live in. Cuarón has set the action of the film in 2027 and the world has progressed but is not too different from our own. Many sci-fi movies place great emphasis on technological progress and use special effects to signify the future. Cuarón has decided against this.)  When the man, Theo Faron, gets his coffee he moves to leave the shop and the camera follows him. This is the classic way of privileging one character over the others in a scene: a director wants us to identify with a character who will become important in the narrative. The soundtrack reflects Theo’s movements also: as he moves closer to the door and the screen over it, the sound of the reporter’s voice alters, as if we are now hearing it from that television monitor. The reporter is aware of how infatuated her audience with Baby Diego and gives his age to the minute: twenty days, sixteen hours and eight minutes!

When Theo leaves the coffee shop the time and setting of the story are presented on the screen: London November 16th, 2027. The streetscape is not unlike London, or any European city, of the present day in its array of shops and signs and traffic. The exterior of the buildings are bedecked with huge video screens showing the news, though. Electronic signs tell the public to report suspicious activity. The familiar red London buses are there, but they have video advertisements on their exteriors. Instead of the black taxi cabs, though, motorised rickshaws speed noisily along the street belching polluting fumes in their wake. A military helicopter hovers in the distance. Pedestrians throng the footpaths. Plastic refuse sacks lie piled outside a doorway giving the impression of a less than effectively run city. There is a greyness about the place. The camera tracks after Theo. He stops to pour a shot of whiskey into his coffee, the first but not the last time Theo will be associated with alcohol in the narrative. The camera tracks past him and then turns back one hundred and eighty degrees to give a reverse shot of the street. As two people meet and embrace, the front of the shop Theo has just left blows out in a deafening explosion. Theo recoils and moves to the wall for shelter. Amidst the screams of the terrified and the injured, the sound of shattered glass splintering to the ground and a high pitched ringing on the soundtrack, the hand-held camera tracks quickly back up the street as if to investigate the site of the explosion. An injured woman staggers out of the coffee shop in a state of shock, carrying her left arm in her right hand.

Apart from the insert of the news broadcast this whole scene has been presented to us in a single take. Cuarón eschews the normal continuity editing and cross-cutting that is prevalent in our cinema, especially in the Hollywood tradition, and is setting up a camera and editing technique that will be used throughout the narrative: the long take. It is a difficult technique for a director to use and involves serious timing and choreography on the part of the actors. A second stylistic feature that Cuarón is setting up is the way the camera can stop privileging Theo to investigate other aspects of the setting: it is as if it finds the background just as,  if not more, interesting than Theo. As the high pitched ringing continues, the final part of the opening credits, the title, flashes onto the screen. It is taken from a passage in the King James Bible, Psalm 21:10: “Their fruit shalt thou destroy from the earth, and their seed from among the children of men.”

This is the end of the opening credit sequence. A cut brings us to an interior shot of  an office building as Theo presents his identity card to an officer. The ringing sound continues from the opening scene, so it is being associated with Theo. Workers pass through a security screen the scans them with laser beams. A poster on the wall reads “Jobs for the Brits”, continuing the theme of immigration that was introduced in the news headlines. We see that the setting for this scene is the Department of Energy. The camera pans after Theo and a sign reads “Save water to save lives”. We cut to an office as telephones ring and the plaintive musical theme associated with Baby Diego, plays again. One telephone call is answered but most of the workers are more interested in the breaking news on their computer monitors: some hold handkerchiefs to the faces and weep, others cluster in groups for comfort. The camera tracks after Theo as he makes his way to his desk. The newsreader’s voice gives us another reference to the infertility that has affected the globe over the previous eighteen years. A point of view shot from Theo’s side if the desk shows how upset his colleague is at the news. Her desk is covered in little toys and dolls that might have been given to a child in different circumstances. She may have been following the progress of Baby Diego vicariously enjoying the sight of him growing up and developing, a substitute for the child she could not have. The toys are a reminder of what has been lost by humanity in the world of 2027. Theo abruptly makes his way to his boss’ office and asks to be let finish his day’s work at home. The sound of the newsreader’s voice continues but it is lower now: we are hearing it from Theo’s point of view, asit were, as he stands at the door of his boss’ office. He is being ironic in  how he expresses his upset at the death of Baby Diego: he seems to find the reaction of those about him more upsetting than the loss itself. This exchange between Theo and Mr Griffiths is presented in the traditional shot/reverse shot technique that we are used to with the camera angle corresponding to the eye level of the characters: in this case, high for the standing Theo and low for the seated Mr Griffiths.

An abrupt cut launches us into the next scene: a montage of shots of major cities from around the world on a television monitor. A jarring soundtrack has been superimposed over the images. Each one shows a different kind of horror that has been visited on the citizens of the various cities: some look like natural catastrophes and some look man-made. The editing of the shots is fast but the rate increases as the  noisy soundtrack builds to a crescendo that ends in the solemn toll of  Big Ben and the headlines “The world has collapsed. Only Britain soldiers on”.  This announcement has all the hallmarks of a government announcement and ends with a shot of the Union Jack filling the screen. It suggests a fascist authority and we might recall the headlines that opened the film and the news that Britain was to keep its borders closed. As the camera cranes down we see that this scene is set on a commuter train. (The man sitting behind Theo reading his book will appear later as a member of a revolutionary group, the Fishes!)  The camera tracks in on Theo as he sits dejectedly with a plastic shopping bag by his side.

The sound of a television announcement about immigrants can be heard on the soundtrack:  He’s my dentist. She’s my house cleaner. He’s the waiter. She’s my cousin. They are illegal immigrants. To hire, feed or shelter illegal immigrants is a crime. The camera has continued to track in to Theo until he is in close-up. This camera technique usually draws the audience to the character and invites us to empathise with him and feel what he is going through. Shouts come on the soundtrack as missiles and mud strike the windows of the carriage which have been covered in protective grilles. The camera pans to the right to show the source of the attack: a gang of youths. As it does so last billboards can be seen in the background. One, presumably a government announcement, displays the message  “Avoiding fertility tests is a crime”. The copy echoes the last word we have heard from the television. Another graffito, probably written by the likes of those who are attacking the train reads “Last one to die please turn out the lights”. The camera holds on this shot without returning to Theo, as we might expect, and the last words of the television announcement fade back in: It’s your life. It’s your choice. Just like the scene in which Theo exited the coffee shop, this whole scene, from the cut to the television monitor, has been presented in one take. Cuarón favour the long take and lets the audience decide for itself what are the important details in the frame. When the camera turned away from Theo as he looked out the carriage window it appeared to be a point of view shot as Theo sought for the identity of the attackers. Huge billboards loomed over those attackers and may have drawn  the eye of members of the audience who proceed to give them more attention. It is an aspect of Cuarón style and an indication of his philosophy of cinema.

Once again immigration and racism feature largely in the next scene on the platform after Theo exits the train. Heavily armed guards line the platform. The area is designated Zone 2. An electronic message over the exit tells travellers to have their identity cards ready. This is a heavily policed state. Immigrants chatter in foreign languages in cages which Theo passes without even a glance: they are part and parcel of everyday life. The camera tracks along the platform after him but, once again turns away from him to show a detail of the background. One tiny woman speaks in German. Her tone is one of bewilderment and outrage: “I do not understand. What is happening? What is happening?  I do not understand. My family with these … blacks! (sic)”. There is a deep irony here as she finds herself being treated in a way that she would not find unsuitable for some of her fellow detainees. Once again the scene ends without the camera cutting back to Theo. There may be some uncomfortable associations playing in the back of the minds of the audience with images from the Nazi concentration camps of the middle years of the last century. (This will become a feature of the film as it progresses: Cuarón has many visual references to the iconography of the various wars that have occurred around the world in the recent and not so recent past.)  

For the first time in the film we see Theo with a smile on his face as he comes out the gate of Alresford station. Again the area is heavily guarded by the military. The camera pans to the right and tracks after Theo as we see the reason for his cheery mood: as his dog sits patiently by his car, Jasper approaches with a broad smile and open arms to greet his amigo. (Michael Caine has said he based the character of Jasper on John Lennon, who was a friend of his.)   He has the look of an aging hippie about him. As they drive through the countryside they discuss the explosion. Jasper’s theory is that the government was behind the atrocity. The camera pans to the right to follow the car but it is the foreground that catches the eye of the audience: the carcasses of cattle burn in a smouldering heap that is reminiscent of the shots of the incineration of herds of cattle in Britain during the foot-and-mouth scare in 2001.  Some such a catastrophe must be affecting the livestock of Britain in 2027. Theo says this is the second such explosion in a month. Jasper wittily suggests that it was Theo’s disinclination for milk and sugar that got him out of the coffee shop just in time to miss the explosion. His reference to Baby Diego makes Theo angry again, as he recalls the reaction to his colleagues to the bad news. It is quite clear now that the death has disturbed him, but not in the way he implied to Mr Griffiths!  Jasper shows his wicked sense of humour again as he asks Theo to “pull my finger”. This is a schoolboy prank in which the joker breaks wind as his victim pulls his finger to make it crack!  All the while Jasper’s dog sits contentedly behind the two men almost as if he were another participant in the conversation.

In a rather lame piece of exposition Jasper explains to Theo that the bus that is overtaking them is full of illegal immigrants who have come to Britain to get away from the hardship of their native countries only to be hunted down, captured and sent to a place called Bexhill for internment. He refers to them as ‘fugees’. Deep Purple play “Hush” on the car sound system during this scene.

Jasper’s car comes to a halt on a leaf-strewn country road and himself and Theo begin to pull branches from the ditch. The music playing now is “Witness” by Roots Manuva. Jasper is enquiring about Theo’s love life. We learn that Theo’s ex-girlfriend has joined an extreme religious group, the Renouncers, who flagellate themselves for the forgiveness of humanity. Jasper mentions another such group who do penance by staying on their knees for a month. The dire conditions under which the country labours is giving rise to different methods of coping with the situation. Jasper’s ironic wit comes to the fore again as he says “Dating ain’t what it used to be, is it, amigo!”  His infectious good humour brings a smile to Theo’s face again. He asks Theo about his birthday, presumably in an attempt to get more information out of Theo that he can use to tease him with. Theo’s response is not very encouraging. He is bored with the drudgery of his life. Jasper says he is feeling so bad because of his drinking. This is the second time in the film that Theo is associated with alcohol. He tells Jasper that he would at least feel if he had a hangover!  The car glides on through the rich autumnal vegetation. Nature seems unspoilt here, in spite of what we have seen elsewhere in the countryside. The setting of Jasper’s home seems idyllic. He is concerned about Theo and generously suggests that he could come and share in the life of this rural retreat. Theo replies wittily that, were he to do that, he would then have nothing to look forward to. The impression we get, though, is that he is at a very low ebb.

As the camera pans slowly across a display of knick-knacks, photographs and cuttings from newspapers and magazines we can detect several details from the lives of Jasper and Janice.  There are references to the war in Iraq; Janice was photojournalist of the year in 2016; cuttings about war give way to references to infertility; a camera and lenses form part of the display; Jasper was political cartoonist of the year in 2010; storks, which traditionally deliver babies, feature in his cartoons; a cut-out photograph of an anti-aircraft gun is superimposed on a cartoon of storks in flight under fire; a figure of a stork stands in front of the display; a small gold frame shows an Indian …….

Extract from Student's Guide: 

STAGE ONE

SEQUENCE 1
A DAY IN THE LIFE
Read the following questions and then let the film roll until the night-time shot of Jasper’s house

How does this film open?  List the news headlines.  What is the lead story?  What kind of a world is being presented to us?  When does the visual track start?  What clues can you spot as to where this opening scene* is set?  Why are the customers in the café so interested in the news broadcast?  How is Theo Faron, the man who orders the coffee, presented to us?  When does the first cut come in this scene?  When is the musical score introduced?  What else is on the soundtrack?  What dates appear on the television monitor?  What is the logo of the broadcasting company?  At what point does the camera move?  What might this suggest to the audience? 

When and where is this story set?  Freeze the frame after the camera leaves the café.  Describe the street.  How is it different from a street in the present day?  What is being shown on the giant video screens?  What notices can you see on display along the street?  Freeze the frame as the camera begins to track after Theo.  Describe the composition, briefly.  What does it suggest about London in 2027?  Why does Theo stop?  Describe the camerawork at this point.  How does Theo react to the explosion?  Describe the camerawork after the explosion.  What is on the soundtrack? 

Describe the transition to the next scene.  What happens as the woman passes through the security frame?  What is the message on the poster that Theo passes?  What is on the soundtrack?  Where does Theo work?  When does the first cut come in this scene?  When does the musical theme start up?  What is happening in the office?  Describe the camerawork as Theo goes to his desk.  Why might Baby Diego be so important to these people?  What excuse does Theo make to his boss?  Does he mean what he is saying?  What favour does he ask? 

How is the transition to the next scene managed?  What is being presented on the television monitor?  How have the images on the monitor been edited?  Who do you think is responsible for this broadcast?  What is happening to the world according to this broadcast?  Where is this scene set?  Listen to the audio track from the television monitor.  Is there any connection between this message and anything you have heard or seen so far in the film?  How do you think Theo is feeling as he sits on the train?

What startles Theo?  Describe the camerawork at this point.  What effect has this type of camerawork on the audience?  What notices are on the billboards beside the railway tracks?  Can you make out the final words of the television message?  What has this television announcement been about?

Describe the scene on the station platform.  How does it fit with what you have seen and heard so far in the film?  Have you seen anything like these cages before (in general, not just in the film)?  Describe the camerawork as Theo makes his way to the exit.  Can you make out what the old woman is saying?  What major theme in the film is being developed here?  What is the irony in what the woman is saying?  What is the message being displayed on the electronic screen over the exit?  What kind of a world does Theo live in?

Why does Theo smile as he exits the station?  How are we being invited to view Jasper, the man who has come to meet him?  What are they talking about as they drive through the countryside?  What is Jasper’s theory about the recent explosion?  Have you seen anything like the fires in the foreground before (in general, not just in the film)?  Can you guess what is happening?  What does Jasper mean by his reference to cream and sugar?  How does Theo feel about Baby Diego?  How does this fit in with how he behaved earlier at his place of work?  What irony can you see now in the excuse he made to Mr Griffiths? 

What has Jasper to say about the people on the bus?  Where are they being brought to?  What does he call them?  What bitter irony does he see in their situation? 

What is Jasper asking about as himself and Theo pull the branches away from the ditch?  What kind of groups does he refer to?   What impression of Jasper are you forming?  Why does he ask about Theo’s birthday?  What kind of a life has Theo got?  What does he say about having a hangover?  How does the setting in this scene compare with the scenes in London?  What offer does Jasper make to Theo?  What kind of a man is he?  What does Theo’s answer say about his life at this point?

Can you make out any of the messages in the display that starts the next scene?  What do we learn about Jasper?  … about his wife Janice?  What did Jasper work at?  How good was he at his profession?  What was Janice’s profession?  What causes did she take up?  What references to birds can you see?  What do the headlines and sub-headlines refer to?  What does the love badge refer to?  What is the final image that is presented to us?  Can you make out the date?  What seems to have happened to Janice?  How does Jasper refer to Theo?  What might he mean by this?  What has Theo brought for Janice?  What has Jasper to say about it?  What might this tell us about Theo?  What catches Theo’s eye? 

Freeze the shot of the two adults and the baby. Why does the camera zoom in on the pictures, in your opinion?  What images are to the right of this snapshot?  Who might have made them?  Is there a connection between “BUSH”, “NOT IN MY NAME” and “DON’T ATTACK IRAQ”?  Replay the entire pan across the array of bric-a-brac, photographs and newspaper cuttings and describe how the soundtrack adds to this scene.

What is Theo reading at the start of this next scene?  To what does the name of the product, Quietus, refer?  What is Theo doing as he reads?  What explanation does Jasper give for the product?  What ironic comment does he make about it?  How does Jasper make his money now?  What was the last reference to Bexhill?  What goes on there?  How does Jasper feel about it?  What name has he given to his marijuana?  What does Theo think of the Human Project?  What do you think it is, based on what Theo says?  What is his attitude to life?  What does Jasper think of Theo’s reaction to the mention of the Human Project?  What is “the ultimate mystery” according to Jasper?  Describe the camerawork as Jasper tells his joke.  What is the effect of this kind of camerawork on the audience?  What do you think of the joke?  What is Jasper referring to when he says “Italia”?  What is the matter with Theo?  How does Jasper react?  How are we being invited to view him?

Describe the final shot of this sequence.  From what you have seen of Theo’s day, What kind of a world does he live in?  How does he feel about this world?  What kind of a life has he?

EXTRACT FROM PDF ADDENDUM TO THE INTERNATIONAL SERIES PACK  

ORDINARY & HIGHER LEVELS - COMPARATIVE MODES:
SOCIAL SETTING/CULTURAL CONTEXT

This mode refers to the world of the text:
- what kind of people live in this world?
- what sense of place is built up and how is this achieved?
- in what period of history is it set (time)?
To re-read the film in this mode you should choose a number of key moments (i.e. scenes or sequences) that feature the world that the characters live in. You need to examine the power structures, attitude and values, rituals and customs of the people who inhabit this world - the ethos of their society. The action of this film is set in a dystopian future - London 2027. The whole world has been rocked by a series of disasters and no child has been born for eighteen years. England is the only country that seems to be still functioning. The price that citizens pay for this is that they live in a joyless, strict police state that has closed its borders to immigrants. An organisation called the Fishes is trying to overthrow the government by causing an uprising.

* Choose three to five key moments (i.e. scenes or sequences) that highlight features of England as it is portrayed in Children of Men.  Ask yourself what we learn about the people who live in this world under various headings, e.g. values, manners, morals, lifestyle, occupation, attitudes etc.

* Get familiar with the key moments you have chosen by watching them again and answer all the questions in Stage One that relate to the social setting/cultural context in these key moments.

* Consult the notes in your Response Journal for your chosen key moments.

* People
Look at the people in Theo’s world.  Some people in this world have power while some are powerless.  Where does Theo stand in this world?
For each key moment ask yourself questions like: 
    Are all the people in this world presented to us in the same way?
    How do these people compare with people in our world today?
    Who has power here?  How is that power used in this key moment?
    What values do the people of this world see as important?
    How do the people in this world behave towards each other?
    Do all the people in this world act in the same way?
    What quality of life have the characters in this world?
    What keeps the people in this world going?
    Is there such a thing as freedom in this world?  
    What is the attitude of the people in this world to Theo?

* Place
There are three principle locations or settings in this film: London, the countryside and Bexhill.  The action of the final scene takes place on the sea, away from all these.  Examine how each of these settings are presented to us.  How are we being invited to view each of them?  Are there different worlds within each of these settings?
For each key moment ask yourself questions like:     
    What differences can you see between the physical features of our world and those of the world presented in this key moment?
    In which of the principle locations listed above is this key moment set?
    What are the main features of the locations in this key moment?  
    Do we see different aspects of the setting in this key moment?
    What is the atmosphere like in this setting?
    How does this setting affect people’s behaviour in this key moment?  
    How are we being invited to view this world?
    How does the setting in this key moment compare to that of others in the film?  
    Would you like to live in the world presented in this key moment?  Why?  Why not?
    Does anyone move from one location to another in this key moment?

* Time    

In the key moments you have chosen what indications are there that this film is set in England in 2027?  How different are things from the world we live in today?  What aspects of our current world can you detect?

* Imagery    

    How is the mise en scène, costume, camera, dialogue and editing (Page 29) used to get the world of the film across to us?
    How are we, the film audience, positioned by the camerawork, lighting and sound to view this world?
    Do aspects of the setting act on a symbolic level in this key moment?
    Do any of the props take on a symbolic role in this key moment?
    How is the camera used in this key moment?
    How is the soundtrack/musical score used in this key moment?