Film review by Andrew Smith
Nicole Kidman, Cameron Bright, Danny
Huston, Lauren Bacall
release Birth has been subject to a torrent of media controversy
thanks to its depiction of a mature woman falling for a ten-year-old boy.
However yet again this seems to be a case of the media blowing things out
of proportion and causing moral panic amongst the easily influenced.
Birth is the
story of a widow, Anna (Nicole Kidman), who becomes slightly obsessed over
a boy, Sean (Cameron Bright), who claims to be her dead husband. This
causes family turmoil, especially for her new fiancé (Danny Huston) and
worried mother (Lauren Bacall).
actors, in all cases, deliver outstanding performances, especially Kidman
and Bright who manage the difficult task of making the audience believe in
their relationship. Lauren Bacall steals any scene she is in simply by
being Lauren Bacall but is also a wonderful actress who delivers a
characterisation rather that just turning up to be a star.
Considering the grim subject matter, which deals with loss and, to some
mild extent, paedophilia, the film deals with everything with an often
surprisingly humorous way. This is the reason for the controversy
surrounding the film’s release. (It was heckled at Cannes).
is not spoiling much to say that there are two scenes in particular that
raise eyebrows, the first a nude bath scene between Anna and Sean, the
second a kiss shared by the two. It is easy to see why this might raise
eyebrows to the uninformed but after seeing the film for myself I can
certainly say that the scenes in question are handled with care and
respect in the context of the movie. The way the nude scene is shot is not
at all gratuitous and during filming all precautions were taken to ensure
the safety of the child actor (complicated blue screen techniques were
used to composite him into the scene). Without these two key scenes Anna
would lack any of the motivation that drives her actions in the later
parts of the film.
Director Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast) excels in making this film
something classy. There is a certain something I can’t quite put my finger
on that gives the whole thing a fifties flavour, recalling the work of
people like Hitchcock and Kubrick. Perhaps it is his extensive use of
long, lingering shots, carried by Nicole Kidman. This is a refreshing
change in modern cinema. For example, there is a shot in the Opera House
that lasts for at least twenty seconds on a still close up, allowing us to
identify with Anna’s confusion over the problems she’s facing. Also,
hidden away within the film are little nods to the attentive members of
the audience. I won’t give anything away, but in some cases they are quite
darkly humorous and startling.
plot twists which hit the viewer during the last quarter of the film got
me thinking: this film was reminding me of something. It finally came
during a confrontational and important scene. The entire plot had been
making me think of The Twilight Zone, and I say this with no hint
of insult to the filmmakers. The situation was treated with complete
sincerity, and yet the actual central idea of the film is pretty silly. It
is this sincerity which pulls the viewer in.
can not say I enjoyed this film as such, I approached it with too much of
an analytical eye for that, but it is nevertheless a very good film, and
one which I encourage you to see despite what some journalists may say.