Did Cuarón read the original James novel?

Regarding Children of Men, yesterday’s National Post reports:

It’s no coincidence that Cuaron began the script in a post-9/11 world, having refused to read the pre-9/11 P.D. James novel that the movie is based on. “Because of those 9/11 events, it was important to set the film more in the 21st century, since the world has changed since then,” he says.

So if Alfonso Cuarón didn’t read the book, how do we explain the various minor points where the film and book do agree? Well, at least four other screenwriters are credited with the script, so presumably Cuarón just re-wrote one of the earlier drafts and accidentally imported whatever elements from the book had survived into those earlier versions. The Post continues:

“The movie is really an observation about the state of things today,” explains Cuaron. “I wanted to make it futuristic but feel like today, so it can comment on the state of things. ?The premise of the infertility is a metaphor for the fading sense of hope humanity has today.”

There are two other issues prevalent in Children of Men that the director hopes audiences pick up on. “Environment and immigration are two of the main issues shaping the world today, and they affect everybody,” he says.

Huh. It’s been over a month since I saw the film, and I don’t remember any environmental subtexts. As for the immigration theme, I found the film’s treatment of this particular issue so exaggerated — and, as others have noted, so inherently illogical — that it didn’t affect my views on current matters one bit.

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  • There are several shots in the film where you see off in the distance old-style smoke stacks spewing away like it was the 1950s Eastern bloc. And obviously a gray, smoggy air hangs over everything and the place is obviously completely filthy. So I guess that’s what Cuaron is referring to, in the film.

    This would make sense in the context of no children and the death of humanity within 50 years. After all, environmental regulations and enforcement are very much in the genre the sacrifice-now (economic efficiency and production) for the sake of future benefits. If there is no future, environmentalism makes no sense.

    ASIDE: There’s also a few moments along these lines where characters smoke, which is apparently banned or even more severely curtailed than today (as a longevity measure, one suspects) and at least once that I recall an exchange goes “you trying to kill yourself with those? / It’s not working though.”

    Unfortunately, and typical of this Cuaron’s stated aims, this just makes his keeping of James’s central conceit yet more incoherent. Infertility has nothing to do with environmental degradation as we see it today. The nations where fertility is collapsing are (for generally unrelated reasons) the ones with the strictest rules and the cleanest air, water, etc. And the worst environments are in poor countries where (for generally unrelated reasons) fertility is high.