This 44-page book is printed in-house and contains a detailed semiological commentary prepared with the general reader, students and teachers in mind. 

For those who would like to use it as a teaching and learning aid in a classroom situation the film has been segmented into ten sequences of 10 to 15 minutes duration.


SEQUENCE 1 (DVD Chapters 1/2: 10 mins)
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 …….