Transpolitics in Cinema

It happens many ties in movies. The petty political differences of nation-states are set aside when aliens arrive. The arrival of a mutual, more threatening enemy causes a sort of alliance of previously competing entities, and in doing so, survive the onslaught and world peace ensues (or something idealistic like that). We see it many times in Roland Emmerich films, and despite how bad his movies can be, I think there’s something of value we can observe in the concept of the transpolitical.

The films I mostly referring are from Emmerich is mostly The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day. There’s also other films that have the same political background amidst similar extraterrestrial war. Take for example Pacific Rim, where massive aliens causing havoc on the world were arriving from a dimensional portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The united world leaders propose making giant warrior metal robots manned by people of different nationalities to neutralize the threat. Some video games such as Halo and Gears of War also touch on the subject, where the world’s differences are shed away to fight together (for once). Similar to Independence Day and Independence Day Resurgence, Halo and Gears of War have universes where humanity is initially united in a single banner of Earth to fight an extraterrestrial threat beyond the scope of any petty nation to fight against it. Or consider other movies that don’t have aliens, but have existential threats that too, go beyond the political differences of people.

What’s interesting is how these movies propose a united humanity in the scope a major scope. Their conflicts, usually movies based on the inability of nation-states to fight single-handed against extraterrestrial threat, is almost an acceptance of the supremacy of the nation-state – they enforce the idea that an alien threat is the only thing that can get humans to fight together. That only a major threat of worldly implications can undermine all the governments of the world. Say what you will on the inherent implications of the State, and how the movies may get the political contexts wrong, they leave much to be desired.

There are also other movies that show a flip side of the transpolitical, one outside or beyond the scope of the nation-states. Personally, I believe that these have been more powerful works. One of the movies I am talking about is Children of Men, a scaringly prophetic (or perhaps timeless) piece that speaks volume to the condition of the world. Its universe is one where the world faces extinction, after generations of children cease to exist. It’s a world that is sterile, and no children have been born for 18 years. There is no explanation; Alfonso Cuaron just delves into the middle of the problem. It is us to ponder and imagine the reasons why, though sterility is obviously a greater analogy. As world governments begin to give way to instability, the only government left is Great Britain. Refugees from across Europe attempt to reach Great Britain, and as the result a police state on steroids takes front stage, marked by mass deportations and political bombings by a leftist guerillas that are angered by the inhumane treatment of refugees.

Yet, for the main character Theo Maron, the “noise” of the political drama in the background becomes a distant preoccupation as it is revealed that one of the people who he was helping smuggle out of the country is pregnant. In a debate with guerilla members regarding what to do about the future child, he calls for the group to go public. When confronted over his reasoning he defends himself, saying that any political ideals on the table are “irrelevant. It doesn’t matter. She’s pregnant.” Even after she has the baby in the worst circumstances, the baby becomes a symbol that goes beyond politics. Later in the movie, as the guerilla forces and the British army duke it out, the sounds of the crying baby put both sides at a temporary truce. It lasts for a few moments, but for a minute, all sides give up armed conflict to see the baby. The baby becomes a symbol of human experience, something that goes beyond political conflict.

What so great of Children of Men that outdoes the other movies and video of the same subject matter is its groundedness in reality. Mass migration, authoritarian and fascist governments, bombings – all of it is so timeless. It portrays a commentary on our position. It shows that the bitter conflict between the left and the right, between Democrats and Republicans, between anarchists and fascists – they are all part of the noise. And perhaps, being part of the noise is not the answer. Perhaps, the solution is going beyond it. Perhaps the solution is in the transpolitical.

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