Film & DVD Review: Birth

Director: Jonathan Glazer
Certificate R (USA) 15 (UK) R Rating (USA) 12A (UK)
UK film theatre general release 5th November 2004

Reviewed by Jacqueline

Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast) directs Nicole Kidman in this intense story about a New Yorker who believes her dead husband has been reincarnated in a child.

Birth has a fantastic beginning! The scene of man running in the snow, on a cold wintry day, with powerful music by Alexandre Desplat is very powerful and captivating.

If you love classical music then you will be certain to love the music score for Birth, by Desplat. He is probably best known for his score for Peter Webber’s Girl With a Pearl Earring, which earned him a 2004 Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score. In addition, he has received two French Caesar nominations for his scores for Jacques Audiard’s Read My Lips, (Sur Mes Levres) and A Self Made Hero, (Un Heros Tres Discret).

The man running in the snow meets with an unfortunate death and so the story begins! “On a wintry day, a young man collapses and dies while jogging in the park”. That same moment, a baby is born. Does one man’s end have any connection to another’s beginning?

Jonathan Glazer, director and screenwriter of Birth’s debut film Sexy Beast starred Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley. Sexy Beast, set in the world of the British gangster, featured Kingsley in a role that earned him Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actor.

In Birth, Glazer, has added his personal touches which are evidently his own unique style. Throughout the film you will see that his focus has been on giving the audience time to capture expressions and to feel the intensity of how the actors were feeling.

This is clearly evident in one particular scene with Anna, (Nicole Kidman), at the beginning of the film, where she is in a theatre with her fiance and the camera focussed on her face for at least five minutes. He has also intensified the very expressive face of the ten year old boy, Sean, (Cameron Bright) throughout the whole film. You will not be disappointed with Cameron Bright, whose expressions and acting are outstanding. Rarely have I seen such talent in someone so young. A star in the making and one to watch out for in the future. In my opinion he was the star of this movie! Watch out for Cameron in the thriller Godsend, with Robert DeNiro and Greg Kinnear and Butterfly Effect, co-starring Ashton Kutcher and Amy Smart. Bright will be seen next in Ultraviolet, co-starring Milla Jovovich, filmed in Hong Kong and Shanghai earlier this year, and Running Scared, starring opposite Paul Walker, which is currently shooting in Prague.

Glazier seems to have thought a lot about the power between groups of people and the dynamics of relationships and this is evident in his directing and screenwriting.

In Birth, he introduced several scenes which involved the family, (the core of our society). Anna, her sister, mother and fiance are brought together in many family conferences. They discuss issues and problems and how to resolve them, which mostly concern the disturbing relationship between Anna and the ten year old boy, Sean, (Cameron Bright). Sean causes chaos within the family whilst trying to convince Anna that he is her dead husband. There are many charged scenes where Sean turns Anna’s world upside down and many heated conversations between Anna and her fiance Joseph, (Danny Huston).

There are several scenes of anger and frustration, which bring with them very powerful acting! This can be witnessed where Joseph, (Danny Huston), loses his rag with Sean, (Cameron Bright). Anna, (Nicole Kidman), also lets rip of her own anger and anxieties towards the end of the movie in one particular heated scene with Sean.

The script is excellent! Three quarters of the way throughout the film there is a flashback and a twist of storyline which will keep you interested and amused.

The cast were a great mix of people, with Oscar Academy winner, Nicole Kidman, (The Hours, Stepford Wives), legendary screen goddess Lauren Becall and Danny Huston (21 Grams). I thought, however, that Cameron Bright and Anne Heche stood out in this film.

I particularly liked the part of Clara, (Anne Heche), a small part, but one she played very well. Anne is probably best known for playing oddballs and loonies in some of her previous films. You may recall her outstanding performance in Gracie’s Choice, where she portrayed a drug-addicted mother. This earned Anne her first primetime Emmy Award nomination.

I personally would have preferred it if Anne Heche had been giving the lead part of Anna instead of Nicole Kidman. I’m sure she would have added an edge to the character of Anna and brought out the lunatic in her. Most of us would agree that a middle aged woman being attracted to, or even considering being emotionally connected with a ten year old boy, must be crazy. This was the only flaw in the movie, that Anna just didn’t seem crazy enough and too much emphasis was placed on Sean being the crazy one.

Nicole Kidman didn’t play her part of Anna, as well as she could have done. I pondered over what could be the problem, and it occurred to me that she was exactly the same in her last film The Stepford Wives. For me what was missing was her lack of facial expression, and I felt disappointed that her face seemed frozen, stiff, although it is fair to say that she did put on the tears a few times. Her acting of late just hasn’t come anywhere near her previous triumphs.

I expect that Birth will attract a lot of controversy over a few of the scenes where Anna and Sean seem to be intimate. However, if you hold onto the thought that in the script toward the end of the film Sean says to Anna “I am glad that nothing really happened between us”, then you will probably see the film in a different light.

If you like a film that explores relationships and dynamics to the full, then you will like this film. Yes, it can be bit heavy at times and is deeply emotionally charged. Don’t let that put you off you will not be disappointed with the overall film, as the director Jonathan Glazer has triumphed with a unique creativity and style.

Credit due to the screenwriters of Birth, Carriere, Addica and Glazer who make a great team and have produced a well thought out extremely clever movie. French writer Jean-Claude Carriere is best known for Belle De Jour, The Tin Drum. Milo Addica, will be remembered for co-writing the Monster’s Ball. Addica is currently living in Paris writing The Frenchman for producer Thomas Langmann, on which he will make his feature directorial debut in 2005. A heavy-weight team of writers and it shows.

CREDITS

STUDIO

New Line Cinema

DIRECTOR

Jonathan Glazer

SCREENWRITERS

Jean-Claude Carrière Milo Addica Jonathan Glazier

PRODUCERS

Jean-Louis Piel Nick Morris Lizie Gower

MUSIC by Alexandre Desplat

CASTING

Avy Kaufman, CSA

CAST

Anna, (Nicole Kidman) Young Sean, (Cameron Bright) Joseph, (Danny Huston) Eleanor, (Lauren Bacall) Laura, (Alison Elliot) Bob, (Arliss Howard) Sean, (Michael Desautels) Clara, (Anne Heche) Clifford, (Peter Stormare)

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