Children of a Posthuman Realism: Alfonso Cuarón’s Posthuman Adaption of P.D. James' The Children of Men

Charles Edgar Hicks


This essay focuses primarily on the way in which Alfonso Cuarón’s use of filmic techniques typically associated with Bazinian cinematic realism reconfigures P.D. James’ dystopian novel The Children of Men into a posthumanist critique of anthropocentrism. First, this essay illustrates that James’ novel is inherently humanistic in its construction of the narrative so that the worldwide infertility epidemic that structures the novel becomes a “natural” or environmentally produced contagion for man to overcome and dominate. Subsequently, after a brief exposition of the central tenets of Bazinian cinematic realism, my argument contends that through the use of depth of shot, long sequence-shots, and non-diagetic dialogue that far from replicating a humanistic text about the ascent of man, Cuarón’s film actually deconstructs the anthropocentrically dominated narrative. Cuarón’s use of techniques such as depth of shot, which creates a horizontal hierarchy of images, both human and non-human, creates a situation where the human characters on screen slowly fade into the natural décor in the background. With this in mind P.D. James’ novel, where the overall message is one of hope in the individuality and strength of mankind, is transformed into a posthumanist agenda that seeks to level the hierarchy and the boundaries between the human and the non-human, all the while showing the audience how the two are already interconnected. 


Posthumanism, film theory, Bazin, Cuarón

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Plaza: Dialogues in Language and Literature