Slavoj Zizek Reacts to Children of Men
Philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Zizek provides his commentary and observations about Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men. The filmmakers recently spent time with Mr. Zizek after identifying him as an important element in their research because of the unique philosophical view he offers on both the implementation of governmental power, and the damaged emotional state of a refugee.
In this transcript, he discusses issues including the foreground/background dynamics of the film, infertility and politics. Zizek brings a complex and informative view on Children of Men's portrayal of London, the emotional state of the characters and overall vision of the film.
For me, Children of Men is a model of a kind of materialist subversion of a reactionary classic, because the novel is obviously a spiritualist Christian parable of resuscitation, bringing new life and so on. The novel ends with baptizing. It’s clear Christian parable. The film is a model of how you can take a reactionary text, change some details here and there and you get a totally, a totally different story. I would say that it’s a realist film, but in what sense? Hegel in his esthetics says that a good portrayal looks more like the person who is portrayed than the person itself. A good portrayal is more you than you are yourself. And I think this is what the film does with our reality. The changes that the film introduces do not point toward alternate reality, they simply make reality more what it already is. I think this is the true vocation of science fiction. Science fiction realism introduces a change that makes us see better. The nightmare that we are expecting is here.
So this I think is a true despair of the film. It's not so much ab out infertility. I think it's problematic to focus on infertility and then do the obvious spiritualist trick and say 'oh byt you know this biological infertility is really a metaphor for spiritual infertility' or whatever. I think that we should avoid this cheap direct spiritualist reading of the film. 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. This is why I think Dalai Lama is such a big hit. He preaches enlightened egoism; be happy, realize your potentials and so on. And this our despair today. 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. But again, I think the crucial point is that this obvious fact shouldn't deceive us. The true despair is precisely that; all historical acts disappear. Like all those classical statues are there, but they are deprived of a world. They are totally meaningless, because what does it mean to have a statue of Michaelangelo? It only works if it signals a certain world. And when this world is lacking, it's nothing. It all depends on whether we have a world. Doe we have some horizon that makes it meaningful? It's against this background that I think that the film approaches the topic of immigration and so on.