Nicole Kidman drew me to watch this film. Having been a fan of hers for a few years when Birth came out, I was excited to be able to see her new films. It’s not the kind of film I would normally get to hear much about, but one of the many things I’ve gained from following Nicole’s career, is being introduced to films, and directors, I may not typically have given much thought to. Upon seeing the trailer for the film I was intrigued by the mystery of the story, whether it would be more of a supernatural story or a very real, grounded, character-driven story … and if/how it would balance between the two. I’m also very interested in stories like this that are focussed on exploring the human psyche. Hearing all the talk about the film when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2004 only heightened my interest in the film. As a fan who loves Nicole’s more daring work, I was enthusiastic about this film, and happy to see the promotion surrounding it. Nicole looked stunning in the red carpet photos from Venice, and she came across as her usual, classy self when discussing the more sensitive aspects of the film. I could never understand the outcry around the film, and having seen the film I still can’t – of course those controversial moments were uncomfortable, but they were handled tastefully, which is a testament to the acting, writing and directing. ‘Nicole Kidman’ + ‘controversial film’, however, usually means something good.
I remember being very surprised – and of course excited – to find that my local cinema was showing this film, as small, controversial films like this aren’t often shown in smaller cinemas. Upon first viewing I really liked this film, and liked how different it was. It’s the kind of film that leaves you sitting in your seat for a few extra minutes after it’s finished, while you take it all in and try to make sense of it. I’ve watched it a few further times over the years. It’s also one of those films that you can find something new in, take something different from, or see things from a different perspective each time you watch. While it wasn’t an immediate favourite film of mine, it’s stuck with me over the years, and has become one of my favourite films of Nicole’s. I feel that very few actors would even risk doing a project like this, but Nicole pulls off the performance so naturally.
My favourite scene is the opera scene, which is equally heartbreaking and awe-inspiring, and such a powerful shot. Itcould be considered slightly risky to focus the camera on one person’s face for a full 2 minutes, but Nicole’s face and acting are so engaging and expressive that it’s the most powerful and telling moment of the film. To be able to tell exactly what she’s thinking and going through, without even a word, is the mark of a great actress. I also find it interesting to compare this type of communication to Moulin Rouge – I know Nicole said whilst promoting that film that she was surprised how much can be conveyed through song, and how some things can be conveyed more appropriately through song than through words, and I think the same can be said for Birth in terms of things being expressed more powerfully through looks and facial expressions, than words.
My 2nd favourite scene is the one in which Anna visits Clifford and Clara and first tells them about the boy. This seems to be the only time Anna is able to open up and talk honestly about the boy. When she’s with her family and fiance she seems to feel she has to deny it for their sake. But when she’s talking to Clifford, we really see her exploring the possibility, and allowing herself to believe in the idea that this boy may actually be her beloved Sean.
Birth is a film that leaves you with a lot of questions, and while that can sometimes be frustrating, it’s also one of the marks of a good film. The fact that it leaves you with these questions makes it endlessly interesting to re-watch. I’m left wondering, Are you able to truly ‘get over’, or move on from, a love like Anna felt for Sean? Are you able to really love someone else when you’re still in love with someone you’ve lost? How do you deal with finding out the person you loved so completely was not the person you thought they were, yet you’re not be able to confront them about it or work it out with them? I guess we aren’t the only ones who don’t have the answers, as we see Anna slowly unravelling throughout the film, trying to work this out. I like how the film allows us to come up with our own explanations as to what is happening, and make our own judgements about the characters and situations. It doesn’t give us an easy answer, it lets us consider it and interpret it in our own way. Even now, reading other people’s comments about the film makes me look at it in different ways. I’m left feeling uneasy and sad for Anna, after seeing her breakdown on the beach at the end, when her grief and confusion finally overwhelm her and she’s able to let her hurt show. That this sophisticated woman can believe something that would appear to normally seem completely UNbelieveable to her, what does that say about the grief she is experiencing? Personally I never believed little Sean was the reincarnation of Anna’s Sean, and so that also lead me to question what young Sean’s motivations really were, something that is almost as unsettling as Anna’s grief.
Birth is not a film for everyone … as has already been established with the polarising reviews and fan opinions! But it’s a classy, intelligent film that makes you question what you’re watching, a meticulous character driven film that is all too rare now. Birth is Nicole Kidman at her very best.
My name is Jess, I’m 24 and from England. I first discovered Nicole in Practical Magic, then became a big fan upon seeing Moulin Rouge in 2001. I decided to create my fansite, Nicole’s Magic, for her in 2002, as a way to support her career and learn more about her … and my admiration for her has only grown! I enjoy running the fansite because I get to connect with and meet other fans of Nicole, and it allows me to pay tribute to my favourite actress in a way that other people can enjoy too. My favourite films of Nicole’s are The Hours, Vietnam, Cold Mountain and Practical Magic.