Friday, November 05, 2004

Notes on Birth 

I have to say, I'm a bit confused. Birth only has a 6.1 on IMDB. Surely this is a better movie than Femme Fatale...right, internet?! Why does it have a lower rating?

I went into this movie not having seen a trailer or even a still. In fact, I didn't really know much about it except for the one sentence plot summary. Frustratingly enough, the movie didn't have opening credits, so I couldn't tell who the director was, and thus whether I was supposed to like the movie or not. Fortunately, the closing credits told me that the director was Jonathan Glazer, of Sexy Beast, and I felt relieved that I hadn't just fallen in love with a Joel Schumacher film.

I was enchanted almost as soon as the movie started. The opening scene, long slow shots moving along a snowy Central Park, combine perfectly with the music to give the movie a sense of magic that lasted throughout the movie for me. I came out of the movie just assuming that everyone thought it was a great film, and feeling warm from the rare experience of a wonderfully executed film.

Ten years after her husband Sean's death, Nicole Kidman is finally remarrying. But a ten year old boy named Sean shows up, and tells her that he's her dead husband, reincarnated, and he doesn't want her to remarry. Obviously, the fact that this possibility is not easily dismissed throws her into an emotional turmoil, and that is the core of the movie.

As I said, the movie is perfectly scored, and matches well with Glazer's visual style. It really feels enchanted, and at times creepy, and it is powerful. Nicole Kidman puts in a good performance, and is supported well by the intense Cameron Bright (from Godsend), who plays the reincarnated boy. The boy is serious beyond his years, and makes the whole ridiculous premise work.

There's a much discussed bath scene, which is often summarized as "Nicole Kidman taking a bath with a 10 year old boy," suggesting a scene of pedophilic sensuality. It's pretty ridiculous, that's not what happens at all. Nicole Kidman is curled up in a bath, he lets himself in, takes off his clothes, and gets in the tub, curled up in a ball at the other end. They don't touch, and after a moment she tells him that she wants him to leave her alone. Which of course isn't appropriate behavior on Nicole Kidman's part ("Uh, get out of the bathroom you little perv..."), but it's certainly not smut either. Maybe she figured the kid had seen it all before.

The other thing that might strike you is that...Nicole Kidman looks kinda weird. Combined with her ultra-short dark brown haircut, and pulled-up eyebrows, she looks like a pixie from Peter Pan or something.

Finally, you might like or dislike the ending, but I thought it was perfect. Spoilers ahead, so select the text to read it. I always hate it when people claim that they "saw the ending coming a mile away," but I really had already started to theorize along very similar lines. That isn't a complaint, I just want to say that I think the ending turned out to be exactly what the movie needed to tie things up correctly, and I was hoping for my theory to be correct. It's crushing, but it feels right; seeing what Nicole Kidman goes through, you don't really want it to be her reincarnated husband, and have them stuck in an impossible love. Kids can do horrible things to people, especially without intending to. The boy doesn't seem malicious, he seems genuinely confused, and that makes it even more painful.

never heard of the film, so it must not be heavily promoted.

is it playing now? whoever is running the marketing for the film is doing a pretty poor job.

sounds interesting, though.
Dante, I heard about it (mostly from the controversy) and I don't even watch television.
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