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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

BIRTH (article first published : 2005-05-30)

Birth, the second film from director Jonathan Glazer, is an altogether different animal compared to his first movie, the swaggering, loud and glossy Sexy Beast which deservedly earned an Oscar nomination for actor Ben Kingsley.

Birth is darker in tone, a lot more complex and eerie. It's also leisurely, solemn and ominous - and has been likened, by some, to the work of Stanley Kubrick in its styling.

It certainly won't be to everyone's liking and anyone who likes neat endings will be disappointed, but it remains a captivating metaphysical thriller, its story centring on grief, resurrection and enduring love.

Nicole Kidman, her hair short and auburn, is Anna, who we first see visiting the grave of the husband she cherished and adored - a man who, 10 years previously, died of a heart attack while on a jog through New York's Central Park.

Anna is at the grave for closure. She has finally consented to marry a man who has been begging her to tie the knot for years. However, when an unsmiling 10-year-old boy (Cameron Bright) makes a surprise appearance at a birthday party for Anna's mom (Lauren Bacall), and promptly announces to Anna that he is the reincarnation of her dead husband and that she should not remarry because he still loves her, Anna's life starts to fall apart again.

At first she laughs off the situation as nonsense but as the enigmatic boy pesters her more, each time revealing facts and memories only she and her late husband could have known, she becomes increasingly convinced the child could be the man she still loves.

Controversial for scenes in which Kidman kisses the boy and bathes naked with him - both sequences handled with much restraint, one must add the film has one on tenterhooks, disappointing only with a bit of a cop-out ending that leaves things up in the air.

But, also featuring Anne Heche and Danny Huston, it remains worth seeing. 8/10 Billy Suter




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