21 January 2014

On location: Children of Men

Owen & Moore in Children of Men
Recently I watched a TV screening of Alfonso Cuaron's excellent dystopian epic Children of Men from 2006, featuring Clive Owen as former freedom fighter Theo Faron who finds himself protecting a West African migrant who is the first woman in the world to become pregnant for nearly two decades. The film is set in a totalitarian nightmare Britain familiar to anyone who read the many grim sci-fi novels by the likes of John Wyndham, in which train windows are meshed over to protect the occupants from ever-present vagrant debris-flingers, the state orchestrates bombing campaigns in order to pin the blame on dissident opposition groups, and brutal refugee camp guards torment those unlucky enough to wind up without a British passport.

One of the early scenes of the film depicts Owen's character being kidnapped by balaclava-wearing men on the bleak and litter-strewn streets of London, and taken blindfolded to a secure location for an unexpected reunion. His kidnappers are working for his old flame, American exile Julian Taylor played by Julianne Moore, who hopes to recruit Theo back to the revolutionary cause. As the camera pulls back, the location of the kidnapping is revealed to be an enormous warehouse-like structure with a domed roof pierced by multitudes of skylights. I visited the location of this shot in 2010 - it's actually the wonderful heritage building known as '3 Slip Cover' at Chatham Historic Dockyard in Kent, first constructed in 1838 to weather-proof the Royal Navy's all-important dockyard construction programme. The brilliant light inside is fantastic thanks to the arching roof and all those skylights.

The Dockyard also contains the superb Ropery - a 346m-long multi-storey brick building constructed to house the Navy's rope-making endeavours. The building is so enormously long because it allowed the workers to stretch out a full 1000 feet of rope by hand.

See also:
Movies: Children of Men trailer
Movies: Starship Troopers, 9 January 2014
Movies: My top 10 films of 2013, 30 December 2013
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