After a moment, she began to speak... Ophelia's last speech from Hamlet, then a verse from Rilke's Duino Elegies, then she stopped, looked at the audience, began again. Quietly at first, she spoke about her life in Europe, the war, her travels to America, her husband, their love of theatre. She never sat, occasionally she walked, once she turned her back to the audience, once she covered herself with her hands and arms as if to withdraw when she spoke of her child. For a little over an hour, she created a portrait of a woman lost in the time of her memories, like an old tintype photograph kept under glass in a bell jar. She painted that same delicate self-possessed loneliness with the music of her voice and the careful, unpredictable changes in her face and body.
In this time, as an invisible, dark cloud irresistibly embraces the planet, I am drawn to visions of the past and... the future.
Every time I revisit the film, Children of Men, I am heart-struck by Alfonso Cuarón's menacing vision of life in a flooded, suffocating land—a landscape wet, covered with residual mud, a blue-grey landscape inhabited by mud-people, who no longer can hear their own thoughts, who are suffocating in a dissolving world and like dying fish are frantically trying to pierce the surface for a gasp of air, for the sound of their own names. It is a coldly frightening, almost intolerable view of a tolerated reality. It is Kubrick's "2002" and Malick's "New World" and Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven."
In his film, Cuarón acquires the status of a visionary filmmaker and all the artistry that goes with it. As in the apocalyptic visions of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, Cuarón sets his image in England, that persevering bastion of civilization, healthy or sick, which at a time of Earth-shattering catastrophe offers the only home for temporary human survival. Cuarón's England, whose language has become a polyglot of world tongues, is now reduced to an unrelenting, 24-hour-a-day babble: police-state government babble, enterprising commercial babble, insane political babble, babbling people who cannot close their mouths or still their voices for fear that the light will go out in their eyes. It is an image of a melting world that has lost the rule of law and the balance of human rights, whose only hope is in the belly of a young woman, who doesn't know how that hope got there.
A dream?... or a familiar view of the horizon of our ungovernable planet as it disintegrates after 600 years of disappearing resources, the result of an uncontrolled, overwhelming explosion of population, lack of understanding, refusal to understand, a mushroom of babble that culminates in one arrogant phrase: "Good night and good luck!"?
Unbearable? Depressing? No, I don't think so. Think of Helen Keller and Siddhartha. Think of nonvocal music and nonverbal dance. Think of the silence of mother-evolution. Think of the silence in the loving eyes looking at you in which you can see yourself... and all the colors of the sea.