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Birth film image; trio in conversation

Widely disparaged by reviewers on its release 20 years ago (it rates just 39% on the aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes) and a box office failure, Birth is a sorely misunderstood film, and more than that, a surrealist masterpiece. Nicole Kidman plays a young Manhattan widow who is bemused, angered, appalled, and finally captivated and enraptured by the strange courtship of a ten-year-old boy (Vancouver’s Cameron Bright) who claims to be Sean, her late husband.

It is an unsettling film, no doubt, and a completely unexpected about-face for Glazer after Sexy Beast. The key may be his screenwriting partner Jean-Claude Carriere, who collaborated with Luis Bunuel on his key films in the 1960s and 70s. For all its teasing ambiguities, this isn’t a speculation about reincarnation so much as a surreal fairy tale probing amour fou. Love is a spine-tingling enchantment, and it’s a curse, more slippery and dangerous than we care to acknowledge. Nicole Kidman gives the performance of her life here, and don’t overlook the extraordinary contributions of DP Harris Savides (Elephant; Zodiac) and composer Alexandre Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel).

Screening in 35mm

Without Ms. Kidman’s brilliantly nuanced performance, Birth might feel arch, chilly and a little sadistic, but she gives herself so completely to the role that the film becomes both spellbinding and heartbreaking, a delicate chamber piece with the large, troubled heart of an opera.

AO Scott, New York Times

Mysterious and haunting… you won’t believe anyone got away with making a film like this.

David Thomson, The Guardian

Director

Jonathan Glazer

Cast

Nicole Kidman, Danny Huston, Cameron Bright, Lauren Bacall, Anne Heche

Credits
Country of Origin

USA

Year

2004

Language

English

19+
100 min

Book Tickets

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Credits

Screenwriter

Jean-Claude Carrière, Milo Addica, Jonathan Glazer

Cinematography

Claus Wehlisch, Harris Savides

Editor

Sam Sneade, Claus Wehlisch

Production Design

Kevin Thompson

Art Director

Jonathan Arkin

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