2004-11-26 / Columnists

‘Birth’ – Born Again

By Robert Snyder

It took years for Nicole Kidman to make “Eyes Wide Shut,” but with her new film, “Birth,” she may have made it again.

Directed by Jonathan Glazer and co-written by Jean-Claude Carrièrre (a Luis Bunuel collaborator), “Birth” shares much of the inscrutable plotting and painstaking pacing of the Stanley Kubrick’s swan-song. It’s also about the inability to let go of a long-lost lover, which is interesting because after “Eyes,” Kidman’s marriage broke up with co-star/husband Tom Cruise.

In “Birth,” rich-pampered Anna (Kidman) is still pining over the sudden death of her husband, Sean, a decade earlier. She lives the spacious Manhattan townhouse owned by her matriarchal mother, Eleanor (Lauren Bacall), where she is pursued by the persistent, inwardly ugly Joseph, who has somehow forced her into an engagement. Also under Eleanor’s roof at the moment are Eleanor’s other daughter, Laura (Allison Elliot), who is pregnant, and her husband, Bob (Arliss Howard).

In this upper-class dysfunctional mix comes the supernatural in the form of a 10-year-old boy named Sean, who claims to be the reincarnation of the first Sean and therefore, he says, the husband of Anna. While the revelation seems laughable, young Sean stands firm in his belief and, under interrogation, appears to know a heck of a lot about the decade-long dead spouse. Behaving more bizarrely than convicted pedophile Mary Kay Letourneau, Anna embraces the belief that the boy is telling the truth and lets him stay with her for a night. Even stranger than Anna’s action is that Sean’s parents put up with it, as does Eleanor. Why no one calls a psychiatrist can only be attributed to Hollywood logic, yet the surreal story winds its wacky way through 100 minutes until its incomprehensible ending. Among the unorthodox highlights is the notorious bathtub scene with Anna and the boy, where he excuses his entry into the water by saying, “I want to see my wife’s body.” During this and much of the other movie moments, I kept my eyes wide, but wished they had been shut.


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