Friday, 28 December 2007

Christmas and "The Children of Men"

Well, I hope you all had a good Christmas. Ours was pretty uneventful. For the first time for 26 years we had just the two of us for Christmas Day lunch, and I’m almost afraid to confess that we thoroughly enjoyed the break. Mind you, I made up for it on Boxing Day, where I spent literally twelve hours at church, helping manage Swansea’s Chinese Christian Fellowship in their big Christmas celebration. It was very impressive: I think in the end, they had over 200 people there. Well done guys!

What else to report? My article on Pullman on the Speculative Faith website aroused the attention of a very earnest atheist who wrote a long response. Unfortunately, this sort of site is not ideally suited for this sort of thing and actually, I don’t think most of the readership are terribly interested in apologetics. Equally, as someone pointed out to me, I believe we haven’t really worked out a proper way of doing debates on the Internet. Certainly not on blogs. Anyway, this thing got more and more sprawling as every time I answered the point he would retaliate with a response of greater length. As I have a life to lead, I curtailed it rather hoping that someone else would weigh in. It was a pity actually as he came up with the usual rather feeble comments about Jesus at the end. You know the sort of thing: if anything in the Gospels is challenging and striking it’s borrowed from Judaism or made up by the early church. The problem with this sort of thing is that it fails to explain how the church got started in the first place, least of all on that pretty improbable claim that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead.

Anyway, we got the DVD of the film Children of Men and watched it last night. If you haven’t seen it it’s worth borrowing, although the language is pretty strong. I suppose you could describe it as the curious offspring of the high Anglican English novelist P. D. James and the Mexican ex-catholic Alfonso Cuarón, but actually it’s more a loose meditation by Cuarón on themes from James’s novel than an adaptation. It’s an compelling dystopic tale of a near future where childlessness prevails, although a very major (and added) theme in the film is immigration. There’s a lot of catholic imagery too. Perhaps the most impressive thing is the compelling look and feel of an England that has fallen very much to nasty pieces. The urban fighting scenes seemed to me to be excellently done; there was an authentic and visceral (in every sense of the word) feel of places like Civil War Beirut. The interesting thing is although the film ends on a positive note, it is very open ended. From the relevant Wikipedia article this seems to be deliberate. In other words, it is the sort of typical post-modern offering in which it is the viewer's task to make sense of what is happening.

I would dearly like to know what P. D. James thought of it all. I think I shall have to insert a clause in my will that I do not allow my books to be creatively reinterpreted in this fashion. I’m afraid I am old-fashioned; I feel that in writing the text the way I did, I imposed my meaning on it at birth. I feel almost inclined to say 'dear reader, if you want another version that tells another story, then go away and write a tale of your own'. I hope that doesn’t sound grumpy!

Happy New Year to one and all. And Alfonso Cuarón, don't call me; I'll call you.