Film review by Andrew Smith

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Cameron Bright, Danny Huston, Lauren Bacall

Director: Jonathan Glazer

Upon 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).

The 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).

It 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.

The 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.

I 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.





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