I want to [hopefully] set aside, for the moment anyway, all the obvious ways in which we could critique the film's uncritical and/or unconscious anti-feminism [because the future is dependent on a kind of Christian-inflected "miracle" birth, produced by a child-woman, with the midwife being a man who plays, further, a sort of typically reluctant yet still overly masculinist sacrificial hero], as well as its politics of "humanist" reproduction. Instead, I would like to adopt a kind of enthusiastically Zizekian appreciation of the film as a powerful form of cinema art that, as Zizek argues, makes the background [the state/end of the world] more important than the foreground [hero and girl-with-baby quest/escape narrative]; indeed, the backgrounds that were staged in each scene were clearly designed to, I believe, insist that the viewer watch and see what every day we refuse to see: for example, the outstreched arms of a refugee reaching through the wire mesh of a cage to plead for help, and in another instance, immigrants being hoarded onto buses by guards wielding machine guns and attack dogs]. The ending of the movie, which essentially erases the background until the very last moment when a ship named "Tomorrow" arrives over the horizon, is all foreground: a small boat bobbing on tossing water in the fog, with child-mother, baby, and dying man held together in a pose of historical *waiting*--for Zizek, this is the film's most important contribution, and I agree, to our understanding of how history might turn out well, but only if we understand our utter rootlessness, our position as needing to be untethered to either deadly pasts or immanent futures if we are ever going to hope that things might turn out differently than the nightmare Alfonso Cuaron depicts in his film [which is mainly our *present* transposed on a larger scale to 2027]. As Zizek puts it, "The condition of renewal means you cut your roots. . . . This is the future."
As a side note, I would just say, too, that in reflecting further upon Lee Edelman's book No Future, a book that can't help but come to mind when watching Children of Men, that I find myself more persuaded by his argument, but only when I take it completely and only through its own metaphorical terms [in other words, it is not really against children so much as it is against the strangulating figure of the child as the only route to the future; it is not against the real future, per se, so much as it is against the imposition of particular futures, figured in tropes of reproduction and child-bearing and child-caring, upon the ways in which we are allowed to conceptualize how we want to live our lives now, regardless of issues of inheritance and descendancy that always belong to someone else who is likely going to enforce their rights with regard to "how things turn out"; to embrace the death-drive, then, in this scenario, is not to embrace self- or other types of social destructiveness, but rather, to embrace the idea of a limit to our obligation to the real, actual future--a limit, moreover, that might also be imagined as a limn, or margin, within which queer lives can be more fully actualized because they are, in a sense, more free, [i.e. free from the future's grasp/hold on them]. Maybe this isn't Edelman, and maybe it's just me riffing off Edelman, but I can see some benefits to be gained, in terms of political energies, from this line of thinking, but only if we conceive of the future, and ways of thinking-forward, as always already belonging to those who believe in gates and walls and borders. But I also find myself still not wanting to embrace Edelman's so-called "polemic" as much as I would rather embrace Zizek's idea that what "infertility" [and therefore, fucking/negating the future] really is is the negation of meaningful historical experience. Keep in mind that Children of Men is a movie about a future in which, since infertility is the dominant reality, there really is "no future." The "true despair" of the film, in Zizek's words, comes from its perfect representation of a "society without history," which is revealed in all the ways in which the film's background [the future, but also, our present "history" being represented as: 1) a kind of chaos that ensues when history and the world come to an end, but also as: 2) the very world that we live in now that we don't look at or "see": refugee camps, ethnic cleansing, Baghdad's "Green Zone," etc.] overtakes the foreground hero-quest narrative. Here are Zizek's further comments from the DVD on this point:
I think that the true infertility is the very lack of meaningful historical experience. It's a society of pure meaningless historical experience. Today ideology is no longer big causes such as socialism, equality, justice, democracy. The basic injunction is "have a good time" or to put it in more spiritualist terms "realize yourself" . . . . I think that this film gives the best diagnosis of the ideological despair of late capitalism. Of a society without history, or to use another political term, biopolitics. And my god, this film literally is about biopolitics. The basic problem in this society as depicted in the film is literally biopolitics: how to generate, regulate life.
In addition, Zizek notes that one of the true points of genius in the film [and here I think queer theorists, especially, need to "listen up"] is that the one instance of fertility in the film is completely divorced from "coupling"--we never have a sense of who the father might be and it clearly doesn't matter--but also, the fertility is divorced from sex. As Zizek puts it, fertility is "re-installed, but not in the form of a couple being created. The fertility is spiritual fertility--it's to find the meaning of life and so on." Fertility, in other words, as figured in this film, is about a type of creativity--of thought, of art, of life--that is both tied to history but which can also break free from history in a way that is [re]productive of a better future. But I think where Edelman and Zizek and I might all gather together in agreement is in the idea that "cutting one's roots" is absolutely essential to "renewal" [although perhaps Edelman also rejects renewal], but this does not mean forgetting what Edelman calls "the deadly past," although it does mean, I think, letting go of the idea that the past is "fixed" somehow--it is no more rooted, no more "fixed," than we ourselves are in time. It does not mean refusing the future, just actively "producing" it in a different way. But creativity is the key and creativity will always be--deep down--[re]productive, tied as it is to very old biological and other forces that gather and coil in our bodies and minds. [On this point, too, please see Anhaga's beautiful post on the French film La Jetee and Gilliam's 12 Monkeys and time here.] It has something to do with what "being human" means.