Saturday, 19 September 2020
Thursday, 04 November 2004 16:49

What if death was only a new beginning? Director Jonathan Glazer ("Sexy Beast") attempts to explore this question in Fine Line Features art house film "Birth".

Nicole Kidman stars as Anna, a woman who has finally started to move on with her life ten years after the sudden death of her husband, Sean. With the patience and support of her new fiancée, she feels that she can be at peace. Her world is turned upside down when a 10 year old boy invades her home and claims to be the reincarnation of her husband. He single-mindedly pursues her, forcing her to question the choices she has made.

The concept of this film is an interesting one, and brings into play some difficult subject matter. It does not conform to typical Hollywood treatment. Instead it is more concerned with the study of human emotion than with telling the story. Glazer uses several lengthy takes and extreme close-ups for emotional effect.

Though it may fall short in story telling, "Birth" can boast incredible performances. Nicole Kidman does a spectacular job in a role that is subtle and compelling. I was strongly reminded of Mia Farrow's performance in "Rosemary's Baby". I suspect Nicole's copycat pixie haircut might not have been entirely by accident.

A stand out performance was also delivered by Danny Huston ("21 Grams") as Anna's fiancée. Most remarkable though, is Cameron Bright as 10 year old Sean. There are not even words powerful enough to describe what he brought to this role.

One of the things that struck me right from the opening credits is the sparse use of sound throughout. Without a background music track the characters feel oddly exposed. Stripped down like this, scenes becomes more immediate and intense. This works well with the overall tone. There is something both haunting and sinister here that never quite surfaces.

I was lucky enough to see "Birth" with a couple of friends who were very appreciative of the film for what it was. Unfortunately some audience members reacted negatively and were a noisy distraction. They broke the spell. My guess is that they had short attention spans and felt uncomfortable with the material.

Improvements could have been made that would have gained "Birth" greater audience approval. As for me, I have a lot of unanswered questions. But is that a bad thing? I don't think so.

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