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Zettel Film Reviews » Birth – Kidman, ice-maiden – all ice, no maiden

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Birth – Kidman, ice-maiden – all ice, no maiden

Birth pangs

Birth pangs

Birth – Jonathan Glazer

A.W Kaufman. Remember the name: a Casting Director who has managed to miscast a whole movie, with the inevitable exception of Lauren Bacall of whom one must say you can’t make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse.

For me there is not a credible performance in this odd movie. True the screenplay gives nothing to work with. The project I suspect started with the germ of a good idea: loved husband, Sean, dies suddenly while jogging, (an excellent opening sequence that promises so much more than the film delivers). Cut to a baby being born. Connected, but we know not how. Jump 10 years on and the boy turns up at Sean’s widow Anna’s engagement party claiming to be dead hubby. After that, nobody seems to have a clue where the idea is supposed to lead. So it just lurks around like a bored adolescent with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Much atmospheric cinematography and a score that when it’s good, distracts you from the film. Which isn’t so hard. But none of these compensates for the essential lack of any development of the basic idea.

Ms Kaufman cast The Sixth Sense which puts her one up, but also Dogville which leaves her 10 down. Even in endless facial close-ups which even Andy Warhol would regard as overlong, one miserably, fails miserably, to detect any sense of animation. It would be invidious to be too hard on Cameron Bright who plays the boy: he just doesn’t look right, sound right or feel right. With such a young actor these are criticisms of direction not performance.

Kidman is an enigma. In off-screen interviews she seems intelligent, ballsy, feisty and full of life. So where does that all disappear to on screen? My take on it is that she is the most closed actress I know. It is as if she keeps the real feelings hidden so has to act the ones we see. So her performances always, for me, lack truth. Cruelly Glazer holds one almost endless close-up and absolutely nothing shows. I am willing to accept that I have a blind spot here, but I am fascinated at what would happen if a Director ever captured the real Nicole Kidman on screen. One feels that the film might melt! It’s not that Kidman can’t act – the problem for a movie is that she can’t not act.

Finally: Birth is another in a line of movies that suffers from what I would call the ‘Curse of Sixth Sense’ i.e. ever since that superb twist ending everyone is trying to come up with something as good. Indeed Shamalayan himself is making increasingly crap movies in an effort to emulate that triumph. Birth doesn’t even get close. Get life guys: find a real story.

(November 2004)

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