217. Birth (US 2004)
d. Jonathan Glazer
starring: Nicole Kidman, Cameron Bright, Danny Huston, Anne Heche, Lauren Bacall
Cinematography: Harris Savides
Music: Alexandre Desplat
FACT: Danny Huston is the son of John Huston (the director of Treasure of the Sierra Madre) and grandson of the genius character actor Walter ('Howard' in the same film). Lauren Bacall was married to the star of TSM.
LIE: Jonathan Glazer added an 'r' to his surname to avoid accusations that he only made it due to his dad Peter's showbiz connections.
A ten year old boy claims to be the reincarnation of a woman's long dead husband.
A controversial choice, apparently. Canvassing opinion led me to such enlightenment as "What a shit film,"; "That's shite," and even more precisely: "That's fucking shite."
Now, Birth is not without its faults. The infamous shared bath scene is a bit creepy (in the non-scary sense) and the film has one of the most disappointing endings I've seen, but there are many good points.
Glazer is a very talented director (as evidenced by 'Sexy Beast') and he exhibits an assured sense of the control of all of the film's main elements that is only really seen in the works of the best auteurs. The film has a genuine quiet sense of melancholy which is helped by good performances all round particularly from Huston (in a thankless role), the excellent Cameron Bright and even Kidman. Talking of creepy, if you're ever in a decent sized bookshop, skim the highly-regarded film biographer David Thompson's's truly appalling Kidman biography to witness the effects of a man typing with his penis. Don't buy it, of course.
The film opens with a long tracking shot of a hooded jogger making his way through a snowy Central Park. He dies. An instant later a baby rises to the surface of pool in nineties-style water birth.
Ten years later, Nicole is about to marry Danny, when a sombre, taciturn ten year old arrives claiming to be Sean, Nicole's ten years-dead husband.
The rest of the film is devoted to the unravelling of the central enigma. Nicole momentarily gets them out (for David Thompson) and the film is spoilt by its final, badly written dénouement. There are no real 'fireworks', just a slow, brooding, good-looking film with shades of Vertigo (which also had a French writer providing the source material) along with good acting, music and skilful direction.