Sunday, November 07, 2004

Sean Of The Dead

In Jonathan Glazer's Birth (2004) Nicole Kidman plays a rich upper-class woman about to marry nice-but-pompous Danny Huston ten years on from the death of her first husband Sean. Cue the arrival of a ten-year-old boy who has his own reasons for thinking the ceremony shouldn't go ahead: he announces that he is the reincarnation of Kidman's late husband. With Anne Heche in the supporting cast stalking the edges of the plot, the creepiness doesn't end there, either...

It's a shame that the film's release has been hijacked by media hysteria concerning a (brief, chaste) scene where Kidman shares a bath with her young co-star Cameron Bright, because it's one of the most unusual and striking mainstream pictures of the year, tackling some tricky issues with admirable subtlety. The scene where the camera pans in on Kidman's face, registering for the first time the possibility the boy maybe telling the truth as she watches a performance of dissonant classical music, is pure Hitchcock, while the film also owes a considerable stylistic debt to Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (even Nic's shorn locks recall Mia Farrow's similar cut in that film). There's also a wintry feel to the whole film that heightens the chill factor, and Birth shares with The Village enough confidence in its story to let the events unfold at a steady, patient pace (ie. people with attention deficit disorders may find it boring).

Perhaps the most impressive feat achieved by the film is that it manages to provide a satisfactory conclusion to proceedings, with just about enough ambiguity to provide a pleasing resolution whatever your views on the possibility of reincarnation. Terrific performances throughout the cast also should be mentioned as they help sustain the credibility of the rather fantastical plot. It's particularly good to see Heche given a pivotal role in a notable film to get her teeth into again: following her apparent breakdown, hopefully this'll be the start of another interesting phase in her career.


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