BIRTH (Jonathan Glazer, 2004)
BIRTH delivers Nicole Kidman as Anna, a woman who appears to be finally moving on from the death of her husband ten years ago. Anna is engaged to Joseph, played by Danny Huston, but she hesitates at the marriage when a ten-year-old boy named Sean tells her that he is the reincarnation of her deceased spouse.
Director Jonathan Glazer focuses a glimmer of Kubrick onto this sober chamber drama and floods it with Buñuel to evoke BIRTH’S heightened unreality. Invoking the Spanish surrealist master is by design. Co-screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière wrote BELLE DE JOUR and THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE, among other Buñuel classics. BIRTH channels the style and tone of those films exceptionally well, but ultimately the dramatic resolution is unsatisfying. Kidman again demonstrates why she is one of the most interesting contemporary actresses. As the gamine Anna, she slogs through an emotional muddle. In one of BIRTH’S best moments Glazer holds the camera on her face for a long time to allow an intimate view as she processes the idea that her dead husband has returned. The film’s formal qualities are second to none. Harris Savides’ cinematography casts a gorgeous pall over the family’s baroque apartment. The use of music, including Alexandre Desplat’s original score, complements the darkened physical and emotional interiors. There’s much to admire in BIRTH despite its storytelling shortcomings.
(Review first aired on the November 9, 2004 NOW PLAYING)