out of Five
Running time: 100
An unusual film from beginning to end, Birth is certain to divide audiences – some will be drawn to Glazer’s hypnotically austere style, while others will find the whole thing rather silly and laughable.
Birth is British director Johnathan Glazer’s follow-up to Sexy Beast, his critically acclaimed feature debut. With his new film he has swapped the glorious colours and bright sunlit photography that characterised Sexy Beast for their polar opposite, a palette of muted greyish tones and dull, wintery exteriors.
The result is an extremely strange film that takes an aesthetically European approach to what seems, on the surface, to be a typically high concept premise. As such, it is certain to divide audiences, but it remains an intriguing, if not entirely successful film.
10 Year Old Claims To Be Reincarnation Of Dead Husband
Nicole Kidman plays Anna, a wealthy New Yorker who has just announced her second marriage, after the death of her first husband ten years previously. Everything seems to be fine until a mysterious ten year old boy (Cameron Bright) barges his way into the celebrations and claims to be the reincarnation of her first husband. Naturally, Anna is initially sceptical but she gradually comes to believe that he just might be who he says he is, much to the horror of her husband-to-be, played by Danny Huston.
The performances are as muted as the colour scheme, which adds to the dreamlike quality of the film, particularly when coupled with a haunting orchestral score by the gloriously named Alexandre Desplat. Kidman is well cast, her natural ice cold demeanour lends itself perfectly to her character’s struggle against emotions she has spent ten years burying.
As the kid, Cameron Bright is scarily intense and gives a mature performance, although the effect will be ruined if you’ve seen rubbish clone thriller Godsend, where he used the same intensity to play the EEEEVIL child.
Excellent Supporting Cast
The supporting cast are excellent, particularly Danny Huston (from Ivan’s xtc), who has a terrific scene where he finally cracks and attempts to spank his “love rival”. Anne Heche is also good, looking almost unrecognisable in long brown hair and adding a touch of quality mentalism to her early scenes. However, they’re both eclipsed by a film-saving performance by Lauren Bacall as Anna’s society mother, who gets to deliver the film’s best line: “How’s Mr Reincarnation enjoying his cake?”
To be honest, Birth could have used a little more deadpan humour, as the overall bleakness eventually threatens to suffocate the film. In addition, the much-vaunted, controversy-generating scene in which a naked Kidman shares a bath with an equally naked Bright seems as if its sole purpose is for shock value, as it doesn’t add anything to the film.
Oddly, the film pulls back on a kissing scene that occurs later and is potentially more shocking – if the kiss had occurred within the bath scene, it would have been much more effective.
In short, Birth is an impressively made film that doesn’t quite work but remains interesting throughout. Its refusal to give any definitive answers is likely to generate both frustration and admiration in equal measure, but it is still worth seeing thanks to Glazer’s unusual directorial approach and strong performances by its cast.