birth. pregnancy. fascinating subjects. intense subjects. a revelation.

not the passion or challenge. no. that has been debated too many times. discussed far too much.

pure anticipation. the Promise, the Hope. That is the power of a child. for months, nine, there is the slow growth and experience of the mother, the burgeoning stomach. the spreading and separation for the soul into two.

the expectation. anticipation. it builds and swells.

like an addict watching his medicine pull slowly back into the syringe, his lips dry and parched, it is almost painful seeing the drug there running into his future so slowly as it measures past the lines coated onto the plastic (syringe) - 1cc, 2cc, 3, 4 weeks, 5 weeks, 1 trimester. it builds and builds. the dose ever (swelling), preparing to infuse directly into the vein of your life.

that is the wonder. the anticipation. the greedy, finger twitching hunger for that "fix". that rich wonder as the needle raises to the arm, the first contraction of the skin as the thin sharp pain prepares to deliver ecstasy.

the rest is just haze, and forgetfulness.

the intensity is coming...

the wait.

such fascinating subjects.


Directed by Jonathan Glazer, written by Milo Addica, Jean-Claude Carriere and Jonathan Glazer, and produced by Lizie Gower, Nick Morris, Jean-Louis Piel and Wang Wei. Released in 2004.


Anna – Nicole Kidman
Sean – Cameron Bright
Joseph – Danny Huston
Eleanor – Lauren Bacall
and others: these are the main ones.

Anna’s husband, Sean - we never really meet him - collapses and dies, presumably of a heart attack, under a bridge in a park. Ten years later, Anna is engaged to be married – to Joseph – and is completely stunned when a ten-year-old boy turns up claiming to be Sean. He knows a great deal of personal information (that he couldn’t possibly know if he was just an average ten-year-old boy), he doesn’t want Anna to marry Joseph, and he – supposedly – still has feelings for Anna.

In order to convince the boy (and, it seems, herself) that he’s not Sean, he is invited to spend a night with the family. She becomes more and more convinced that he is who he says he is…

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that it sounds like a great idea. It does, too. Great enough for me to want to go and see it, in any case. The trailer has an exceptional moment: when Sean first announces who he is in front of Anna, and Anna ridicules him, he drops – as if unconscious – to his knees, and topples forward. It’s a powerful moment, more powerful as it is out of the context of the rest of the film, which – theoretically – should make it more powerful when the moment is back where it should be. And there’s the problem…

The plot of the film is so paper thin that the beautifully conceived moments within it have no context to support them. The moment where Sean collapses is perfect, the scenes in the family home are engaging and tense (although the presence of Lauren Bacall certainly does help: the fact that she acts Kidman of the screen doesn’t particularly). The surprise twist (which centres on the original Sean’s brother) adds, I suppose, a little frisson. The intervening moments, however, are little more than ways of getting from one set piece to another: there’s no narrative drive to keep an audience in the cinema.

Some of the moments, too, are just plain bad. At one stage, Anna is in the bath when Sean comes into the bathroom (don’t they lock bathroom doors in America?). Sean begins to take his clothes off: the audience begins to get antsy. Sean, now naked, climbs into the bath with Anna – a ten-year-old boy in the bath with a mature adult. The audience is, frankly, disturbed. Anna tells Sean to get out of the bath. Now, I appreciate what’s supposed to be happening: Anna is all confused, and she would desperately like to have a bath with her dead husband (that sounds wrong, but you know what I mean), and, therefore, lets Sean get into the bath. It should be a moment of extreme tension and electricity. I suspect, though, that one of the writers thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be a good idea if we had a moment where Sean is in the bath with Anna?’ and the rest agreed. They then had to work out how to get Sean into the bath with Anna. A good moment ruined by lack of narrative drive. Meanwhile, the audience is – metaphorically – on its feet screaming at the screen. For goodness sake, Anna! There’s a ten-year-old boy getting undressed in your bathroom! He’s naked, Anna! Anna! He’s getting into the bath with you! Make him stop. Somebody make him stop!

And what of Nicole? Well, what of her? Her performance is stunning, and for all the wrong reasons. When the script gives her something to do, she is over demonstrative, loud and violently unconvincing. When the script gives her nothing to do, she fades to the point of transparency. One of the ‘key’ moments is, supposedly, when Anna, at the opera, begins to realise that Sean might actually be who he says he is. The camera stays on her face, as close as it can be pretty much, for what must be two, three minutes. It feels like hours. She watches, and twitches, and underplays furiously, as the thoughts pass through her mind. It’s like having a tooth pulled. I guess I could feel horribly uncharitable about her performance, but I don’t: she doesn’t ruin the film – it’s ruined anyway; and she’s a good actress – The Stepford Wives is proof of that. It does beg the question, though, of why she accepted the part.

I have an answer. I won’t give away the end of the film. It’s not that I don’t want the ending to be spoiled, particularly, or that I want to make sure that hordes of people buy the DVD. I just don’t need the earache, that’s all. I think that the film originally had a very different ending, an explosive, Sixth Sense, gut-wrenching climax. And that that, and with it, most of the explanatory narrative of the film, ended up on the cutting room floor. Someone got too nervous, and decided to pull the plug on the original idea. Why else three writers, an incomprehensible plot, some (truly) dreadful acting, and a conclusion that (unfortunately) has to be seen to be believed? It must have been a good idea to begin with… mustn’t it?

Factual details from

Reading about drugs

and that people re-experience the terrible trauma of birth

but wait: terrible trauma...

I had the grace and delight and sometimes terror
of catching babies, new and slippery and surprised
for nineteen years

they do not arrive traumatized

an older obstetrician
always gentle
when I would ask for help
deep calm and sometimes
he would wait for the newborn
and not rush us to the operating room

and if the child emerged
he would say "girl ears"
or "boy ears"
he always guessed
frequently wrong
his small tickle of humor
and the mother too busy at that moment
to notice at all
except that his voice was calm

I think of the one forming
in the womb
the sounds of mother's heart and guts
dark and sounds
of father brother sister other

the first time I see
the new baby in clinic
I imitate the sound of the doppler
swish swish swish
and the newborn alerts, and knows my voice too

I think of the one forming
in the womb
and my daughter
who tried to come early
confining me to bed for three months
and adrenaline-like terbutaline
my hands tremble
my heart rate at one hundred
I knit to channel the figdets
six sweaters
and my daughter is worth it

I think of the one forming
in the womb
out of room
the space is too tight
can no longer stretch or kick
head down

I think of the one forming
in the womb
saying now
I need more room
now and the cascade starts

we don't know what starts labor
the baby or the mother
or both

I need more room
and the infant pushes towards the door
towards more room

and I have had
the grace and delight and sometimes terror
of catching them
slick and messy and bloody
as they emerge
into the light

open their eyes
and breathe
at light and room and air

Birth (?), n. [OE. burth, birth, AS. beor, gebyrd, fr. beran to bear, bring forth; akin to D. geboorate, OHG. burt, giburt, G. geburt, Icel. burr, Skr. bhrti bearing, supporting; cf. Ir. & Gael. beirthe born, brought forth. 92. See 1st Bear, and cf. Berth.]


The act or fact of coming into life, or of being born; -- generally applied to human beings; as, the birth of a son.


Lineage; extraction; descent; sometimes, high birth; noble extraction.

Elected without reference to birth, but solely for qualifications. Prescott.


The condition to which a person is born; natural state or position; inherited disposition or tendency.

A foe by birth to Troy's unhappy name. Dryden.


The act of bringing forth; as, she had two children at a birth.

"At her next birth."



That which is born; that which is produced, whether animal or vegetable.

Poets are far rarer births that kings. B. Jonson.

Others hatch their eggs and tend the birth till it is able to shift for itself. Addison.


Origin; beginning; as, the birth of an empire.

New birth Theol., regeneration, or the commencement of a religious life.

Syn. -- Parentage; extraction; lineage; race; family.


© Webster 1913.

Birth, n.

See Berth.


De Foe.


© Webster 1913.

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