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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
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.
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
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!
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!
*** This review may contain 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.
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.
*** This review may contain 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.
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.
(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"
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
*** 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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