Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Uh...Just Read the Book

It is an old (but trustworthy) adage: "Don't bother with the movie, just read the book."

I figured this would certainly be the case with The Children of Men, the exceptionally poignant P.D. James novel that had, at its heart, a stirring and unmistakable pro-life ethic. Sure, Hollywood could attempt to convey the novel's message but would it? And, even if it tried, could the genius of James' remarkable novel be duplicated on the big screen?

Well, no. The old adage stands.

Below is a quick excerpt from Thomas S. Hibbs' review of the movie version of The Children of Men that he wrote for National Review. Hibbs, who earned his doctorate at Notre Dame and was a professor of philosophy at Boston College for several years, is now dean of the Honors College and Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Culture at Baylor University.

The entire review is excellent but, if you haven't yet read P.D. James book, let me adapt our adage a bit for you -- "Don't bother with the review, just read the book."

But, if you have read The Children of Men (one of my personal Top Ten as well as a favorite of the Notting Hill Napoleons), then looking over Dr. Hibbs' commentary will be enjoyable, enlightening...and it will save you the 8 bucks admission to the flick!

...[Alfonso] Cuaron, who has directed such solid films as A Little Princess and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, takes one of the many symptoms of malaise from the book — xenophobia about immigrants — and makes it the central issue of the film. For this streamlined film, the issue of immigration works as a dramatic framing device.

But it also severely truncates, and in crucial ways inverts, the intellectual and political content of the story, so much so that the political and ethical implications of a “regime that combines perpetual surveillance with total indulgence” are completely absent from the film. In place of James’s remarkably perceptive depiction of the modern threat of nihilism, Cuaron’s film seizes on the most flawed part of the novel, its action sequences. Cuaron’s dazzling action film departs from the book on two big themes: a) the human condition and the dangers of modern politics and b) religion and the raising of children...