With Harris Savides' (Elephant, Gerry) brilliantly chilly cinematography and a moody setting that reminds the viewer of a slightly less supernatural homage to Rosemary's Baby (even Kidman's close-cropped hair is remeniscent of Mia Farrow's), Glazer has created what is probably THE most underrated film of 2004. Brilliant in both its form and function, Birth, I think, has scared most Critics off, with its bordering-on-pedephilia storyline, but this is a film that needs to be seen for what it truly is - a quietly monsterous tour-de-force by one of the Cinema's newest Auteurs. Glazer, who only hinted at his talents with his feature debut, Sexy Beast in 2001 (which was all form and not much function), with his sophomore effort has created a subtle painful agonizing ode to the desire of love conquering all, including reason and sanity.
Birth is the story of Anna, played by Nicole Kidman,with an eerie nuance I never thought her quite capable of, who has pined for a decade over the death of her one true love, Sean. Now, after a very long engagement to the ever-patient Joseph (Danny Huston), Anna has decided to move on with her life and get remarried. Only one minor problem pops up - her dead first husband has come back to Anna, in the form of a ten year old boy, played with a creepy stone-faced chill by Cameron Bright. Although many have blasted the story, screaming foul at Kidman's Anna believing the boy's preposterous claim, it is the fact of just how preposterous his claim is that gives Birth its emotional core. This is a woman that so desperately misses her true love, that she is willing to forget all semblences of reason in order to be with him again - no matter what form he now takes. Kidman, in a single unedited three minute shot of nothing but her face, as she sits in the audience of a classical music concert, we see her go from sceptic to ponderment to true believer, all with just the motions of her eyes - Kidman easily gives the greatest performance of her career (and this right on the heels of the Von Trier masterpiece, Dogville - what a year for her).
Although some say it teeters on the edge of child-porn - there is one scene where a naked Anna sits in the bathtub only to be joined by an equally naked ten year old Sean (not that anything past that happens) - but this only gives Birth a more disturbing air in what should be a disturbing film. Those of us who are not afraid to feel uncomfortable in the Cinema can witness this without scorn or pity or revulsion. Full of brilliant scene after brilliant scene - from the opening tracking shot of Sean's fateful jog through the park to the closing scene of Anna's breakdown on the beach - Glazer has amazed all those who are willing to give this film the chance it deserves. Although the somewhat disappointing ending comes precariously close to ruining the film, Birth holds its own as great and dangerous work of art. [01/06/05]