Children of Men

Topics: Existentialism, 21st century, Individual Pages: 6 (2379 words) Published: November 20, 2013
Essay Question: Analyse how verbal and visual features of a text (or texts) you have studied are used to give audiences a strong idea

The idea of Existentialism is a modern philosophical idea that is portrayed in the film Children of Men directed by Alfonso Cuaron. The director uses verbal and visual features such as allusion, character action and tracker shots to leave the audience with a strong impression of existentialism

21st century Existentialism is a modern philosophy that is an attempt to make meaning in a chaotic world, putting an emphasis on individual existence, freedom and choice. This has developed as literature that is unique and creative, with strong main characters who are trying to make the world they live in a better place. I have decided to examine this philosophy in dystopian films and novels from the 21st century in hopes that these futuristic films can help to make sense of the chaotic world we live in. From these texts I have gained a larger understanding of ideas such as the importance of being an individual and making an attempt to change things for the better. These books are also used to convey a warning of the future, because despite the fact that they are of a fictional nature, many of them use historical events and predictions we have today to create the dystopian societies. Of course not all of the proposed societies are so far-fetched; the rate at which technology is advancing means the possibility of these dystopian societies being a reality in our near future is extremely high. At first I thought modern society and these dystopian societies were completely different, but upon closer inspection it becomes clear that they have many parallels. A repetitive parallel with modern existentialism ideals that occurred across the texts were religious themes. It is by examining texts such as these that we are able to discover a little bit more about life’s value.

Existentialism theories that humans are individuals and as individuals they can define the world around them. René Descartes, who was a 17th century Philosopher; was the first to say “I think therefore I am”. This phrase perfectly describes the message the writers are trying to portray, it is also the basic philosophy that builds the foundation of existentialism. In the novel Blind Faith the main character, Trafford Sewell, breaks from societies rules and keeps secrets. This is his way of defining himself as an individual and to escape “the boredom of living in a world where the only idea is faith and the only dimensions are sex and gossip”. Unlike the other individuals in his dystopian society Sewell decides to share his secret, to try and make the world a better place. For this he is denounced as a ‘faith criminal’ and is burnt at the stake, much like early Christians Martyrs. But “in a way, he’d won. He had made a protest. He had spoken out, forming two or three whole sentences in a world where truth was illegal”. The author is trying to demonstrate that one individual willing to risk themselves can make a difference; this is a key idea in existentialism. This same idea is also demonstrated in all 3 other texts, each main character completes individual task intended to improve the world around them, usually by spreading the truth instead of lies. Joseph Stalin is a markedly unsavoury figure in human history, but he could be said to be an existentialist. He once said “One man’s death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic”, this is what Sewell was trying to stand up against, he didn’t want to become another statistic, he wanted to be someone and make a difference. We see people become statistics everyday; for example newspapers print headlines that say things like; “Millions Die in Famine in Africa”. But we never learn who these people are, to us they are just another statistic. Existentialist work hard to prevent themselves from becoming statistics, not being someone is probably one of their biggest fears.

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