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Response to Ingard: One Important Line
beauregardgrant15 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Hmmm... Actually, I think that when little Sean said "Don't tell Anna".. he actually meant: "Don't tell Anna that I took the letters you buried." Remember that Clara was showing little Sean her dirty hands in the bathroom, meaning she wanted to tell him she tried digging up the letters and found, of course, that they weren't there anymore. SHE knew it was the only way Little Sean could have known all those details about Anna. And Little Sean realized it when he saw her dirty hands...

Little Sean was there in the early scene to show that he was in a position to dig up those letters, and later he recognized Clara as the one who buried them.

Hence: "Don't tell Anna" is just another clever diversion to make us think that he is the reincarnation of Anna's husband.
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Lovely character study
jnm19819 December 2004
I can understand why people react so aversely to this film, but, in Birth's defence, it's quite a demanding a piece for it to suit everyone's tastes.

Granted, the plot is slightly unpalatable, and yes, there are instances when the film appears to veer into senslessness, but, unless you want a clear-cut resolution, this cannot quite be written off as shoddy work on the part of anyone involved. Most of the complaints made about Birth have come from people who cannot get past the plot elements of the film, namely, the flirtation with pedophilia. It is uncomfortable, quite so, but that precisely is the point... Moreover, it's worth noting that the characters themselves find it repelling, and that there is nary a sexual undercurrent between Sean and Anna.

I believe one could argue, very strongly, that this plot device is merely a catalyst to throw Anna's psyche into relief. In the end, whether the boy is Sean or not proves irrelevant; the film is less about a bizarre happening than about the extreme psychological test it brings about. It's intense analysis of love, grief, need and the leaps of faith...

Given this set-up, the execution is flawless. What the screenplay does, quite beautifully, is convey silent emotions; it understands, better than most films, that communication is often non-verbal, and in this situation, when the very thing at stake is reason, it is logical that the characters would be at a loss for words. If any given person were to be in Anna's situation...what would they do? How would you react if someone close to you were living through this?

Jonathan Glazer's direction is splendid, building up a somber, airless mood and coaxing superlative performances out of the entire cast. Kidman's performance is somewhat mannered, yet she completely, effortlessly inhabits a difficult role; it is a brave, piercing, bravura performance. She captures Anna's desperation and fragility, but also her privileged lifestyle and upbringing, and the mad undercurrents grief has brought about. The so-called opera scene will be, years from now, considered a seminal moment in her career. Bright is chillingly effective, registering an intensity that is somewhat unsettling, and the supporting turns--which, with limited material flesh out characters, build histories and express emotions that the screenplay only implies--are sterling, especially in the case of Bacall and Howard.

Technically, the film is a marvel. Two things are worth noting: Harris Savides' wonderful cinematography (there are at least three iconic sequences in the film), which creates a look and a mood that is at once foreboding and exquisitely beautiful, and Alexandre Desplat's splendid score, which underscores the drama without becoming obtrusive and blends symphonic melodies with a hi-lo undercurrent that creates an odd womb-like effect.

Lovely, heartbreaking, unforgettable.
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Coitus Interruptus
abelardo6415 May 2005
There is much to admire in this frustrating classy, pretty film. Nicole Kidman's performance for starters, an intriguing premise and a beautiful score. But this is a partial birth. Nothing is taking to completion. Scenes seem to start and then we're left with nothing. Important plot points are merely hinted while unnecessary repetitions are inflicted upon us with infuriating monotony. I'm not going to enter into details but just let me say that I was worked up to a frenzy without allowing me a climax of any kind. Nicole Kidman however is sublime. She is a fearless, sensational actress. She has one of the longest close ups in recent history and that is one of the greatest moments in a film full of almost great moments. There is something about Sean that doesn't make any sense. I'm not talking about young Sean but about the dead one. The Anne Heche's character is as absurd as Camilla Parker Bowles, with the difference that we know Prince Charles and the absurdity becomes him. We can't make head or tail of the dead Sean and as a consequence his life was merely a writer's excuse. Utterly unconvincing. In spite of all that I may see the film again and I've actually recommended it for Nicole Kidman's performance and a score that I've already bought and I've been playing incessantly.
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The Main Problem Was....
lavatch30 October 2005
The premise of the death of a prominent scientist coinciding with the birth of a child and the two "souls" merging ten years later was an intriguing one. But despite the effective cinematography, especially the exterior scenes in New York City, there was a central problem to this film.

The major problem was in the characterization of the child. The main character Anna (Nicole Kidman) becomes attached to the 10-year-old boy who claims to be her deceased husband. Anna then develops an obsession with the child, throwing her engagement to Joseph (Danny Huston) into confusion.

If only the child had some personality and had been able to convey some of the charm of the deceased husband, it might have been possible to become engaged in this film as a supernatural thriller. (When Anna and the boy meet privately in Central Park, the site is Sean's death scene. A more appropriate spot would have been a special part of the park where the couple met in life--not the place where Sean died.) Throughout the film, the boy only asserted ad nauseum that he was the husband "Sean" without giving Anna any hint of the "soul" of her former husband. If only the screenwriters could have developed sensitively and insightfully the characterization of the child, this film could have been stunning.

The credibility gap was too wide for us to believe that Anna would actually begin to love the child as the reincarnation of her husband. It was also too difficult to believe that Joseph, Anna's family, and the child's parents would permit him to literally move into Anna's apartment.

The most effective scene in the film was the moment when Anna's sister-in-law Clara (Anne Heche) confronts the child with her own secrets pertaining to Anna and Sean. The entire film might have resonated this level of energy if only the little boy had been given a personality!

It is unfortunate that this little kid could not have been paired with Linda Blair's character in "The Exorcist." Now that would have been a perfect match!
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A brilliant glance on death and the what-if
e_robertg23 April 2005
This movie was a masterpiece in every way. I initially left with a sour taste in my mouth after viewing the ending. I then watched the movie again and caught some of the more subtle cues, words and actions happening in this movie.

The Kubrickian opening scene was beautifully shot and evoked this powerful sense of a journey about to unfold. There are several scenes where Nicole Kidman delivers quite possibly the most powerful performance she has ever delivered and without the use of her voice. She pulls this off so well and it gives a good sense of what the rest of her performance has in store. An unsung hero in this film is the young child actor Cameron Bright. His performance was equally as astonishing. He was able to convey the adult mind intermixed with the mental faculties of a child. This Mr. Reincarnation was accurate down to the smallest details of how his actions should be as an adult while also displaying how his vehicle was still that of a child's. He was conflicted and equally abound with thought as Anna, Nicole Kidman's character. The duality was shown towards the end specifically when they were both shown taking portraits.

The musical score by Alexandre Desplat blends so extremely well with this movie and conveys even more powerfully those scenes where voice is not available to convey each of the actor's unheard emotions. The opening shot is one of the best examples of how well it completes the movie.

I believe you'll have to have an observant eye and an open mind to fully appreciate this film. The ending may seem unfulfilling or open ended but in a sense it is quite conclusive. The ending does leave enough room to view it in different ways however.

In short, I recommend this film to those who can fully appreciate films that make you think and which offer a beautiful composition of both music, images and story.
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If you are the type that talks at movies, don't go to see this one.
m_tron321 November 2004
(Disclaimer) If you like popcorn flicks, and are incapable of thinking during a movie, Birth is not for you, go see The Grudge instead. It may be more your speed.

Birth is a film for the thinker, the moviegoer that doesn't automatically shut down in the theater. This movie had me constantly trying to sort things out all the way through to the end.

I have read a few of the reviews on here and some of you might not be into the whole film-making process. Those that really study film and cinematography; will be treated to a 100 minutes of pure beauty in film-making. I loved how he transitioned between one shot and the next. The one scene that I found surprisingly effective is when he focused on Kidman's face for 3 minutes straight. He chose to use her silent acting abilities as a method to describe her consideration of this strange child. I am a lover of all forms of film, and I'm constantly on the lookout for the next film that gets my mind going. The last film to do that was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Before that, it was Vanilla sky. Both of these films have been less than favored by the mass public. Its strictly because they DO cause you to think beyond "when is the hero going to prevail"
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Breathtaking & Beautiful!
Lorna19865 December 2004
From the haunting opening to the heartbreaking ending... this film is an absolute masterpiece. Everything from the acting to the cinematography is stunning. It is extremely unfortunate that more attention was focused on the now infamous bath scene between Kidman and Cameron Bright. The scene is uncomfortable, no-doubt, but it is supposed to be. At no point is Anna (Nicole Kidman) completely relaxed in the company of this child who claims to be the reincarnation of her dead husband. The inclusion of this scene and the later 'kiss' scene simply add to this feeling of confusion and raw emotion that Anna is experiencing. What better way to tap into viewer emotions than to have a 10-year-old tenderly kiss a grown woman - it's an idea that is guaranteed to evoke strong feelings! The fact that we do not dismiss the reincarnation idea as completely ludicrous owes much to the fantastic acting - not just by Kidman but by the supporting cast also. Lauren Bacall is truly wonderful as Kidman's sarcastic mother. Kidman & Bacall are a fantastic double act, with their performances bouncing off each others perfectly. Both Kidman and Bacall have said that they feel like mother and daughter off-screen, which is evident in this movie. At times, you feel like a fly-on-the-wall watching a supporting but disbelieving mother trying to help her heartbroken daughter. This adds yet more to the personal, emotional tone of the picture. Anne Heche gives her best performance in years as the friend-with-a-secret. Cameron Bright is a real talent and is even more impressive when you realize how little dialogue he actually has. Through facial expressions and actions he acts jealousy, pain, hatred and love wonderfully well for such a youngster. However, it is Kidman who yet again shows that she is one of the best actors of our generation. She is along side Meryl Streep as someone who astounds us time and time again... If ever one scene could represent her astonishing talent, it is the 'Opera-scene'. The camera stays on Kidman's face for nearly a minute - in this minute, every emotion Anna is feeling is expressed through Kidman's face. It is stunning and, if any scene should have overshadowed this incredible movie, it should have been this one! Kidman is astoundingly good - the final scene is truly one of the most heartbreaking scenes I have ever sat through. The ending I mentioned doesn't explain everything to us - how Anna ends up is left to our own imagination. This is by far the most moving, though-provoking, superbly acted movie of the year. Anyone who gets the chance should see it and if the Academy (Oscars) ignore this - they really are as arrogant, small-minded and stupid as they seem!
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one important line
ingard29 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Birth. If you haven't seen the movie yet, don't read the following. If you have seen it, please note this clarifying explanation: Strange that critics, especially critics of the end of "Birth" forget that one important line: when little Sean says to Clara in the bathroom "don't tell Anna." Little Sean says that before Clara even explains a word about her identity. That means, ob course, that Sean knows exactly who Clara is: his secret love affair in his former incarnation as Annas husband. But he does not like his own behaviour in his former life, and he does not want Anna to know. That's why he claims to be a liar. But in truth he really is the incarnation of Annas husband.
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Michael_Elliott11 March 2008
Birth (2004)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Ten years after the death of her husband, a woman (Nicole Kidman) is about to remarry but she gets a visit from a 10-year-old boy (Cameron Bright) who claims to be her husband reincarnated. This is certainly a very strange, bizarre yet unique love story/thriller that asks a lot of deep questions but sadly none are really answered due to the lackluster ending. The first hour is certainly hard hitting stuff with some eerie atmosphere that goes a long way. Nicole Kidman turns in another brilliant and incredibly brave performance, which should have gotten more attention but I guess it was overlooked due to the controversy surrounding a couple scenes including the one with her and the kid in the bathtub together. What I enjoyed best was that the film played out as something from real life and not B.S. we see in a movie. The characters are all very mature, they think and act the way people do in life and not in some normal movie. Danny Huston and Lauren Bacall co-star. Anne Heche is also very good in a role I didn't even know it was her at first.
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Promises, promises
Miles Charrier16 May 2005
Alexander Desplat, the splendid composer of "Birth" starts us off in a such away that I though I was in for a real treat. Then Nicole Kidman, with her astonishingly beautiful, intense, intelligent face. Elegant fades to black, scrumptious cinematography. Then what? As soon as 10 year old boy makes his appearance telling her, them and us who he is, the film stops and dwells on that point without knowing where to go. Round and round and round again. Among the writers of "Birth" is listed the great Jean-Claude Carriere with amazing titles to his credit. I don't believe for a minute that he had anything to do with the appalling structure of this mess. The most frustrating feature of this film is that it promises a memorable journey within the first ten minutes and then ignores it, ignore us it cheated us. I really want to blame someone for this, who shall I call?
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Handsome package with little inside...
moonspinner5523 July 2005
Nicole Kidman is made-up and photographed in a breathtaking way--even more so than usual. Angular and arched, she's an elongated pixie, beautiful but not the same Kidman we've all seen walking the red carpet. Her Anna is slightly dazed, imposing at first but then maybe a little fragile; it's tough to get a fix on her, she's just beyond reach. Such an intelligent, tremulous woman would never let this plot-line go so far, as a youngster approaches her and claims to be the reincarnation of her deceased husband. Why doesn't she (or any of her family members) just say the obvious thing to the strange little boy: if you are who you say you are, prove it! Kidman walks all the way into the park to confront the boy but only asks him one question--and then runs away; the family greets the boy at the apartment, but instead of grilling him they give him dessert! It's a very frustrating movie, frustrating for the fact it had enormous potential but the opportunities for a sharp, smart, sophisticated human drama have been muffled out. **1/2 from ****
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A Treat For the Art-house Crowd
Brent Trafton30 October 2004
If you see Birth, go in realizing it is an art-house film, not a mainstream thriller. If it didn't have Nicole Kidman in it, this film would be playing in less than 10 theaters in the country. But because of Kidman, it is playing in your local cineplex but this is not a film for the cineplex crowd. If you are looking for something like The Others, The Sixth Sense, or Ghost; do not see this film.

Birth is a film where atmosphere means more that dialog. This is not a fun film. The people in the film are very deadpan and do not smile; especially the child. Much has been made of the bath scene but that is actually one of the least radical parts of this film. The thing that will upset most people are the long close-ups without any dialog. Also, the conclusion does not tie up as many loose ends as a mainstream film. This film wants the viewer to think about it afterwards.

Nicole Kidman and Lauren Bacall are great but for me, Anne Heche almost stole the film with her small part. Also, the music is atmospheric and a real treat if you like symphonic music.

This is a beautiful film to look at and listen to. The story will keep you guessing which direction it is going to go. Whether you are happy with the outcome or not will probably depend on your expectations. Go into this film with an open mind. 9/10
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bad plot, unnecessary scene, NO script, ponderous, boring, waste of life. (Spoilers abound)
mikes-2315 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I like Movies. I have sat through some awful tripe because I feel that, like people, everybody has a good side. So I wait for films to show me something mildly visually compelling - a moment's genius amidst an otherwise pointless mess of celluloid rubbish. Most of the time, I am able to take solace in the fact that even Matrix Revolutions had at least a few seconds of high-speed visceral action, despite the unfathomable script and plot.

Birth, on the other hand, was the filmic equivalent of a VERY long wait. I have had more fun standing at a bus stop, with the flu, in the rain.

Besides the technical issues - the alarmingly regular appearance of boom mics, and the plot holes - the kid sean's inexplicable ability to point out Lauren Bacall as the Xmas Humbug, Birth's script is virtually non-existent and ponderous kubrick style tracking shots sap the very life blood out of the viewer so that they are lulled into a hypnotic half-slumber. I am sure that detectives have been faced with a rash of mysterious deaths where victims have been found on their sofas, dribbling out of the corner of their mouths, eyes open, gazing zombie-like to the end credits of 'Birth'.

This film could have been squeezed just as meaningfully into a 2 minute short. If you take out the scene where we are forced to look at Kidmans' face at the concert for an age, the straight-repeated scenes (standing in for flashbacks) and the lengthy silences filled with supposedly drama-filled facial expressions which DON'T lead us to an explanation of the plot any more than a stray fart in a lift - you would be left with ''Hello I am your dead husband in a child's body, no I am not I am a misguided teen with a boring life and I've pieced together a bit of information about you to try and see your boobies in the bath'. DEEPLY suspect bath scene by the way!!

Oh - and nicole kidman reminded me of a loveless and neurotic icy-frigid Aunt - not a hint of a deeply emotional soul who still pines for her long-dead hubby. 10 years wasn't it? I would have been able to understand her acceptance of Sean mark 2, if we had been shown, just for a moment or two, some scenes featuring her previous 'deep' relationship with Sean mark 1.

All you art-house types should really stop looking for a deeper meaning in this movie. It's a lazy piece of film making and I half expect that the director has a hefty reliance on downers.

Side note:- That fella who plays Kidman's husband is seriously scary-looking. I reckon he'd be a good 'devil'.
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A Woman Learns More About Her Dead Husband
Scarlett18 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
In the opening credits we slowly witness the death of the main character's husband. This sets up the slow and seemingly endless pace of this movie. I found myself not caring one bit about any of the main characters and nothing in the film gave me any reason to feel otherwise.

I would compare the pacing and tone to that of Eyes Wide Shut, another film starring an unlikeable and cold version of Nicole Kidman. Like that film, the characters seem self-centered and without any ability to give or receive love.

One much talked about scene shows a close-up of Ms. Kidman at the symphony. We are expected to gaze upon her visage for what feels like eternity. I kept waiting for some subtle play of emotions across her face as she processes what she has learned. I got nothing. I read reviewers going into rapture talking about how marvelous it was that she could sustain this scene which, for me, she could have just as easily been going over her "to do" list of errands for her personal life ... that is how disconnected she seemed to her situation. To me, the scene served no purpose except to waste film and the time of the viewer.

Another much talked about scene involving the bathtub to me just felt painfully awkward and contrived ... much like the rest of the film.

I guess for me the film just felt so inauthentic ... sometimes it is appropriate to show emotions and there were many opportunities for the characters in this movie to show that their was some depth to their feelings. Instead, the writing and the acting disappointed and the film just felt one-dimensional.

Birth is a laborious film to watch and seems to last nine months instead of 100 minutes, ending in a miscarriage. A root canal has more passion and entertainment value.
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Reincarnation or Deception: Salvation or Destruction
Chrysanthepop28 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
'Birth' is a wonderful film that could have been excellent had it not been for one major flaw. That we'll come to later. Visually, it's stunning to watch as it gives a very somber atmosphere, with minimal use of colour. The superb cinematography with all the marvelous long shots allow us to explore the inner psych of the characters and also give a claustrophobic feel to the setting. The inspiration from the late Stanley Kubrick clearly shows. I thought the background score would have been more effective had it not been for that constant base heartbeat sound in every scene. I think silence and minimum use of the score would have been more effective in a few key scenes. Nonetheless, Glazer does a decent job.

Nicole Kidman proves again why she's one of the best actresses around. This is probably her most challenging role. She beautifully brings out Anna's fragility and frailty and the long shots that focus on her metamorphosing expressions and silent emotions give her full scope to perform and she makes full use of the chance. Danny Huston is quite adequate and it is quite clear that his Joseph is a character with his own problems (that need to be resolved). Perhaps he too is just as fragile inside as Anna is and perhaps this is what attracted him to Anna. Lauren Bacall has limited screen time but she has an electric presence. Anne Heche is a standout in her scenes.

Now the problem is the characterization of young Sean. This character forms one of the most crucial parts of the film (the other ones being Anna and Clara) but we just know so little about him. Even after the conclusion is long resolved, we never understand why he is obsessed with Anna. To make matters worst, Cameron Bright, as young Sean, is wooden throughout the whole film. He acts like a robot and barely has an expression. He single handedly brings the quality of the film down by a huge chunk. It's also strange how the child's family and Anna's family permit him to stay at Anna's. Anna clearly had her own reasons.

There are a few disturbing scenes but I do not understand what all the controversy was about. There are undertones of paedophilia but 'Birth' does not condone it. It shows the reaction of a very disturbed mind who knows what she's doing is not right. We do not see her initiate the behaviour in question but it's her response that is disturbing to the viewer as it gives an idea to the extent of her weakness.

Yet, in spite of the flaws, the film is worth a watch because it works excellently as a character study (I'm talking about Anna) because in the end it's not even relevant anymore whether the boy was a reincarnation or not. It was about Anna's coming to terms with the death of her husband. 10 years have passed since but she's still vulnerable and fragile and clearly has not worked through her grief as she quite easily believes that the boy is her husband (because, in her own words, she wants to believe it). I watched the film with my housemates and one of them commented that she would have been able salvage herself had she seen the letters and found out about Sean's affair. But given her very delicate state of mind, it could have done the opposite leading to a further state of destruction.
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An Interesting if Peculiar Movie
writerasfilmcritic20 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Ever notice how many people just mimic somebody else? It seems to be one of the leading characteristics of human beings, who often act like glorified chimps. When one person claims the little boy in the film "has no personality," several others must chime in with exactly the same sentiment. The kid was supposed to be fully cognizant of his past adult incarnation, and as such, he acted more like an adult than a child, hence his apparent lack of "personality." In fact, he handed in one of the most convincing performances I've seen from a child actor in a very long while, because 99% of the time, the children of celebrities are precocious, annoying and predictable. Thankfully, the filmmakers made a thoughtful selection and didn't pick one of them to fill this rather demanding role. The milkshake scene was jaw-dropping and the bathtub sequence truly awkward and discomfiting, but they were done believably. No wonder this flick didn't get much publicity. Child welfare advocates would have been defecating in their shorts.

What was intriguing about the story is that the kid successfully wooed this woman away from her fiancée despite all the odds stacked against him, but given a twist in the plot, suddenly claimed he couldn't be who he thought he was and walked away from the whole situation. This odd and confusing movie, nonetheless, had some interesting elements and was photographed quite well. The long closeups, in particular, were especially effective. What a luxury it must be to use up so much expensive film on subtle changes in an actor's expression. The Wagnerian score was good, too. Nicolle Kidman has been involved in several interesting projects to date. There was "Dead Calm," "To Die For," "Cold Mountain," "Eyes Wide Shut," and now this. How old is she? She looks just as good as she did many years ago. Liked that short haircut, Nicolle. It's one thing to be gorgeous at 22, when most women are at their most alluring, but for a beautiful woman to age so gracefully is rare.
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Reincarnation, or deception?
jotix1005 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
How long can a woman grieve the husband who died prematurely? In fact, that question is posed by the writers of this intriguing film, but they never answer it, as they have left it to us, the viewing fans of "Birth", to reach our own conclusions. Our answer would be that Anna will love Sean forever!

Jonathan Glazer, an amazing new talent, has followed his previous film, "Sexy Beast" with this new movie written for the screen by an impressive team, namely, Jean-Claude Carriere and Milo Addica, helped by the director himself.

Much has been discussed in this site about the film, which makes a valid point into making us believe a young boy, who might, or not, be the real Sean, is the real thing, or just an opportunist, who happened to be at the right place, at the right time. Anna, the woman who suffered the great loss in her life fights the boy when he appears, then, as everything points into the right direction, or what she wants to believe, and she gets answers that have been inside her head all the time, she accepts as natural a situation that by all accounts if far from normal.

Nicole Kidman, with dark short hair, gives a subtle performance as Anna. Ms. Kidman's contribution to the film is amazing; she goes from denial to a complete state of acceptance. There are moments when we, as the viewer, feel the pain Anna is feeling. Her sequence at the concert when we watch her face, as all the emotions are seen in her face, is one of her best moments in a film. Also the last sequence when we watch her at the beach, after she has married Joseph and is seen wandering in the water crying is another clue we get from her.

Cameron Bright, the young actor, makes Sean comes to life, no pun intended. This young actor has an innate talent for getting inside the skin of the characters he is portraying. There is not a false move from the way this actor tackles to convey the idea he is Sean, and that's all there is to it!

Anne Heche, as Clara, holds the key to solving the mystery of the situation the arrival of young Sean has created. The family is in turmoil. This well to do family, who is at odds, first believing, then seeing what it has gone to Anna. We don't see what Clara's role is in the story until the end. Her character has been made to seem ambiguous throughout the movie.

Danny Huston, who we admired in his recent role in "The Constant Gardener", who plays Joseph, the man that has made Anna agree into marrying him. Joseph cannot deal with the changes Anna is going through, so he bolts from her life, as one expects him to do. It's bad enough to have been competing with the ghost of a dead former husband, but it's too much to have a ten year old rival.

Laruen Bacall, Arliss Howard, Peter Stormore, and the others in the cast give good performances under Mr. Glazer's direction.

The moody musical score by Alexandre Desplat is elegant, somber, and mysterious and sets a perfect mood for the film. The elegant cinematography by Harris Savides, with its dark tones and cloudy skies serves the film well. Ultimately, this film clearly shows us a director, Jonathan Glazer, who never bores the viewer in the always chooses the stories he wants to present for our pleasure.
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A psychological character study
Harry T. Yung16 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The plot is probably generally heard by regular movie goers who have not even seen the movie: Anna (Nicole Kidman), 10 years after losing husband Sean and shortly after she has finally given in to a marriage proposal, is approached by a 10 year boy (Cameron Bright) by the same name claiming to be her husband reincarnated.

At the opening scene, we see how Sean (but not his face) collapsing during jogging in Central Park in winter. We have seen Central Park in so many different lights in so many different movies, but never looking so ominous as in this one. Even more overwhelming is the score, starting in pulsating strings, intercepted sporadically by bright sounding brass, but culminating in a fatalistic crescendo of timpani as Sean collapses.

Although the movie has suspenseful supernatural overtone and there is a twist (albeit a mild one), do not expect it to be anything like "Sixth Sense." Rather than focusing on whether the boy Sean really is or is not Sean reincarnated, one can get more out of the film by trying to empathize with Anna. Not to be missed is of course the so much talked-about Kidman's 2-minute close up shot giving us a peep through the expression on her face what's going on in her mind. There's no question that it's a tremendous challenge, but she is helped a little by having the scene set in an opera performance, where the music punctuates her thoughts. Just imagine the same scene but with her sitting quietly by herself, with no background music or even sound – how much more difficult that would be.

Kidman masterfully portrays the various psychological states of Anna, first the indignation at the cruel prank from a 10-year-old, then the gradual acceptance of the weird story, starting with the scene in the opera mentioned. Acceptance becomes absolute conviction as she defends Sean against incredulous relatives and friends – watch for that creepy expression on her face when she says, "yes he is". Then, she faces the devastating shattering of her dream in a bathtub scene (NOT the also much talked-about scene when they are BOTH in a bath, but the one when Sean is bathing by himself), "you're just a little boy", she says in a bitter laugh. Losing her husband once is tragic enough. Losing him twice is something from which she may never be able to recover, as hinted in the final, wedding scene. But the most tragic thing is not known even to Anna herself, but only to the audience, who must leave the cinema heart broken but also praying that Anna may never find out what the husband she loves so much is really like.
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I am still intrigued days after seeing the film.
lawwarrior9 November 2004
I had heard ALL of the negative reviews and comments on this film but I absolutely adore Nicole Kidman, I knew I'd see this film no matter what people said. I'm SO glad I did.

The story has it's faults. There is no introduction of characters, there's nothing to compare the life of Anna and Sean before to what is happening in the film at the present between Anna and the young Sean and I believe there is a purpose behind that. It could be that the filmmaker wanted to show off Cameron Bright, in the role of young Sean, or it could be that telling that part of the story would hinder the telling of the story in the present. I believe that Nicole Kidman portrayed and gave the audience exactly what her and Sean's relationship meant to her and how it has controlled her all these years. Even at the end you see the pain she is enduring.

I was prepared for the bathtub scene and I have to say that all interaction between young Sean and Anna was very tastefully done. The director put forth a love story. You had to get sucked into it, otherwise you wouldn't get what he was trying to tell.

I would recommend this movie to those who are intellectually inclined. Not to say that you HAVE to be to see it but I think it will be much more appreciated by those who can see past the actual interactions and delve deep into the story being told. If you've ever been in love, a love that encompassed you so deeply, you'll relate to this story for sure.

Even after days of seeing it, I am still intrigued. I actually didn't piece together what occurred at the end until I was walking out of the theatre. Still today I am pondering aspects of it. I'm still feeling poor Anna's pain of loving Sean so much.

Awesome job. I think the young Cameron Bright has a wonderful career ahead of him. He made me believe!
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One of the best movies I've seen
eucalyptus927 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I watched Birth for the second time the other night. There are movies I've loved the first time, then thought on the second time around, hmmm, maybe not as good as I first thought - State of Grace, Fight Club, for instance. There are movies I hated the first time, and hated just as much the second - Lost in Translation and In the Cut come to mind. There are movies that I hated at first, but later came to think were quite good, e.g. Sin City. And there are movies that were magnificent the first time, and even more magnificent the second. Birth is one of these.

This movie, more than any other, reveals the lack of credibility attaching to the Academy Awards. There are always injustices, whereby the most deserving walk away without the prize. In the acting category alone, I can think of Gary Oldman in State of Grace, Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth, Russell Crowe for A Beautiful Mind, Naomi Watts for 21 Grams (hmmm, a lot of Aussies and Kiwis in there - I wonder if there's a message in this). But the greatest travesty of all is not just that Nicole Kidman didn't waltz away with the award by a mile or two for this movie, but wasn't even nominated. One of the great pleasures of this film is watching her sublime performance as she moves gently from suppressed grief to insane grief. She's the one carrying the movie, and takes part in so many outstanding scenes - the lingering shot at the concert hall, trying to explain the situation to Clifford (the best man at her marriage to Sean) during which her declining mental state starts to reveal itself, the scene in the bathroom when she reveals her insane plan to run away with the boy only to find that he's a liar, the boardroom scene in which she tries to tell Joseph that none of it was her fault (probably my favourite scene), the heartrending scene at the beach.

The movie also reveals the hypocrisy, cowardice and basic stupidity of the film establishment. It's possible I've missed it, but no critic savaging this movie and its premise seems to have cottoned on to the fact that Anna was going mad, although the movie makes it blatantly obvious. Rather they like to concentrate on the couple of brief scenes in which the boy climbs into the bath with Anna, and later kisses her on the lips, both handled with taste, discretion, and restraint. Aaaah, shock, horror! The scenes are described as being disturbing, unsavory, of questionable taste. And yet for a film like This Is England, in which a much cruder relationship between a young boy and an older girl is explored ("you look like a four old, but kiss like a 40 year old!") the relationship is described as "cute".

This, without a doubt, is one of the finest films I've seen, containing possibly the greatest performance of all. A 10/10.
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Pretentious boring rubbish
God-125 June 2005
This film just goes on and on. It hints that it is going to have an interesting resolution, but it never arrives. If you cut out the long, meaningless pauses it would probably be a half-hour film, but still an utterly silly conception.

There are interesting backgrounds at times, which is a good thing as it gives you something to look at. I find it odd thought that people who evidently have lots of money have so little taste that the live in places that look like cheap hotels.

The genuine husband in the film is such an unappealing character that it seems odd that anybody would wish to marry him, let alone the actress who is quite attractive.

The film is also utterly lacking in any humour. It is a silly conception but a few, even bad, jokes would have made it less like a lead balloon.

Don't watch it.
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Love endures.
Michael DeZubiria5 November 2004
Ah, there's nothing like a movie that impresses me to great length but leaves me unable to think up a clever summary line that's not a massive cliché. That being said, it's interesting that the movie does revolve around a series of clichés and yet manages to come off as something completely fresh and original. Nicole Kidman reprises another role in a tremendously well-made thriller after the hugely impressive The Others, this time taking on what is sure to be the controversial role of Anna, a woman approaching a marriage clearly designed more to forget the death of her previous husband rather than the pursuit of true love.

One day at a family birthday party, a 10-year-old boy wanders into the house, no one knows who he is, and he says his name is Sean. He's very cryptic and stolid, which gives him the supernatural aura that he needs in order to give Anna just enough pause and the audience just enough reason to believe that he might be who he says he is. His real name really is Sean, but he gradually begins to convince people that he is the reincarnation of Anna's dead husband, whose name was also Sean.

The reason that the movie is so successful with a plot like this is that it treats it with the respect that it deserves, you might say. The characters react in a way that you would expect people in real life to behave. Anna asks the boy not to bother her anymore, her fiancé wants to talk to the boy's parents, they even invite him to a wedding rehearsal so that he can hear the music and know for real that Anna is marrying her fiancé, Joseph (Danny Huston).

Speaking of her fiancé, theirs is a curious relationship. Movies have a tendency to create couples that audiences are eager to see split up when there is someone else that one of them is supposed to be with. Consider, for example, Julia and her idiot boyfriend Glen in The Wedding Singer, or, one of the comedy classics, Princess Vespa's charming groom from Spaceballs. We see the same thing in Birth, this time done very effectively and with the effect of adding to the mystery of the little boy. Clearly, someone with whom Anna so clearly does not belong cannot seriously end up with her at the end of the movie, right? This is such an unconvincing couple that it's easier to believe in a coupling or Anna with the 10-year-old Sean than with this guy.

I was shocked to read one IMDb reviewer respond with cynicism at what is surely the most daring and memorable shot in the film. Early in the film, after Sean has appeared and claimed to be Anna's dead husband, everyone laughs it off as a the meanness and thoughtlessness of a childish prank. They get dressed up and go out to see an orchestra, and the camera slowly moves in on Anna's clearly distressed face. They've laughed the boy off, but he has planted possibility in her head and it's now impossible for her to get it out. Once the camera moves in closely enough so that her face fills the screen, it remains there motionless during an entire orchestra song, something like three solid minutes. No words, no movement, just Anna's face and the music. This is unheard of in Hollywood movies, and is by far the most brilliant shot in the movie.

One foolish reviewer from Austin, Texas wrote this off as the annoying pretentiousness of the director, only able to come to the conclusion that maybe it was an art-house moment. This is what I love and hate about the IMDb. I can see a movie do something new and interesting, and then I log on to the IMDb and can always find someone who says something so dumb that I almost fall out of my chair. This is a rare moment of true acting brilliance in a Hollywood movie, and some jerk writes it off as pretentious. Unbelievable. Not only does Nicole Kidman face the task of conveying a massive amount of conflicting emotions all at once, and not only does she have to do it without moving, talking, gesturing, almost without even blinking, but she pulls it off flawlessly. She incredibly holds her emotion just on the verge of tears, red-eyed and in an emotional thunderstorm but just barely concealing it from her husband. And for three minutes! Rarely do film actors get such chances to prove the sheer extent of their acting skills, and Kidman is absolutely amazing.

The final act of the movie is sure to let some people down, but I don't really think it takes away from the rest of the movie too much. It is brilliantly shot, Cameron Bright delivers another surprisingly creepy performance, even surpassing his work in Godsend with Robert DeNiro, and is now surely the most popular kid in his 5th grade class since he got to sit in a bathtub with Tom Cruise's naked ex-wife.

The effectiveness of the movie is made most clear not by the extent of the reactions that Sean gets from Anna and her family, but from the fact that those reactions are perfectly believable. The adults react like real people would, and Cameron Bright is so good in his role that it's easy to accept that they become less and less sure whether or not they should write him off as just a kid playing a trick. The film leaves open a lot of questions, as I should think is to be expected, but even the questions that are left unanswered are at least acknowledged.
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You know I loved Sean so much, and its been so long that I still can't get him out of my system.
Spikeopath20 March 2015
I remember when it was released in 2004, there was a big hurrah about "the" bath scene, many vitriolic complaints about how slow it was, how not scary it was et al. Birth is many wonderful film making things, of course not all of those things will resonate or enthral many of the movie watching populace, yet there is such craft on both sides of the camera here, and an atmospherically ambiguous bloodline pulsing throughout, that marks it out as a particularly striking film.

Plot finds Nicole Kidman as Anna, who is about to be re-married but finds her world tipped upside down when a young boy (Cameron Bright) arrives on the scene and announces he is the reincarnation of her dead first husband...

Director Jonathan Glazer and his co-writers Jean-Claude Carrière & Milo Addica are purposely being vague, I mean lets face it, the topic to hand is exactly that, vague, and ripe for countless hours of discussion. The film simmers along deftly, meditations on love, grief and anger are skilfully portrayed by all involved. Even a birthing tunnel metaphor doesn't come off as self indulgent, from the off Glazer wants and gets those interested in the story to buy into the hypnotic qualities on show. To jump on board with Anna's fragility while all around her battle for rhyme or reason with her mindset.

In truth it's a hard sell as a piece of entertainment, there's still today, over a decade since it was released, people miffed that the hinted at supernatural elements are not key to the narrative. While the thin line of good and bad taste - and maybe even pretentiousness - is being tested by the makers, but the charges of Birth being dull are just wrong. It never shows its hand, the mystery always remains strong, while Kidman and Lauren Bacall are reason enough to admire the acting craft on show.

Hated by many, inducing even anger in some quarters, Birth is a tantalising picture. A conundrum designed to get a response, for better or worse. 8/10
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If You're a Fan of Modern Poetry...
Bill Jordan9 May 2005
...then you might find something in this movie. For the rest of us, this is the sort of movie you have to be in the mood for. Nothing particularly interesting happens (except for one scene involving Anna's fiancé and the little boy), and as others have already noted, there are long periods of facial close-ups. While I can appreciate the skill that goes into conveying emotion without the benefit of speech or even movement, I don't find it particularly enthralling to watch, at least not for as long as this movie requires.

A previous comment refers to Nicole's character as being in "deep mourning" over her husband's death. I'm not sure how that conclusion can be reached, as there was nothing presented to establish their relationship. They could have hated each other for all we know, and considering some of the later revelations, a healthy dislike at least seems likely.

And I surely don't understand all of the controversy about the bathroom scene, though perhaps I dozed off and missed some of it.

In short, in spite of the excellent performances (Nicole Kidman is always good), I didn't find this film to be particularly thought-provoking or enjoyable, but more a study in facial expressions.

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tedg4 June 2005
There's a scene in this that will feature in film school classes for a long time to come.

Nichole is an uneven actress, only sometimes rising to the world class of Kate and Cate and the old Julianne. The smallest part of this is the process of inhabiting a character, rare enough as it is.

A film exists on several layers depending on its architecture. (I'm only talking here about films that live.) Almost never are the higher levels accessible to the actors in the project: few actors even know they exist. This film is a great example of an actress knowing and inhabiting those higher levels.

What we have here is a director who spins a space of awareness around what we see. The story specifically addresses this and supports it. Into this space, the director and composer have poured a score. This score fits that space as being within the movie proper instead of being an annotation as the usual case.

In this space, the score is something between the film and us the audience, the space where the waystations for reincarnation take place (at least in the story). Nichole acts to the score. It is a remarkable feat because as with green screen acting one has to anticipate what is to come into being later.

The first scene introduces us to that space the score creates. It is a very long shot of the adult Sean running, dying and entering the fog of the score. The scene I mentioned above is later, when Nichole knows she is entering that space: she has literally just sat down to watch an opera... the music comes up from the movie/opera/limbo space we have already entered and it washes over her and changes her reality.

This shot isn't just of a character, but of an actress, her character, and a dialog among them and us about the reality of this space, this layer of the film.

Later, she is getting married and the music (this time by players on screen) draw many of the watchers in as well.

There are lots of flaws in this; it isn't a lifealtering experience. But that one thing is a special experience, the idea that the filmmaker spins an extra space which Sean infers and Nichole, the composer and we inhabit.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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