CINEFEST 2011: Boozie Movies finds Oedipal love in WOMB
Womb is the epitome of Brechtian art house cinema. Upon reflection of the film, it's ripe for satirical comparisons to obtuse melodramas such as The Piano. It's also a science fiction story with out any of the science, and while its basic synopsis suggests a dark parable reminiscent to Splice, its tone is closer to that of Never Let Me Go.
There was a fair amount of heckling, gaffows, and snide remarks through out the film's sluggish running time. Luckily, I had my magical flask on hand to drown out the distractions from the audience. At least, up to a certain point because I also had enough liquid courage to jump out of my seat, turn around, and threaten the chuckling fuckhead in the Phillies cap behind me with physical violence if he didn't shut the hell up. "You wanna act Philly, I'll fucking act Philly, bra!"
By all means, this was a film I shouldn't have liked, and under any other circumstances, I may have joined the dolt behind me in his running commentary. Womb is just a few paces ahead from resembling a Ming-Liang Tsai picture. And as beautiful as his films may be, experiencing Good Bye Dragon Inn is not unlike watching paint dry, or maybe a better analogy would be watching paint chip away from the dirty walls of an old porn theater. Maybe the Jack Daniels swimming around in my brain was making me wistful, maybe my intimate connection with Womb was due to a drunken projection of myself onto the film's lead character beautifully played by Eva Green.
Understand, I have a soft spot for films and stories dealing with destructive obsessions over past relationships. Then again, I'm someone who's spent the past 10 years of his life harboring a very unhealthy obsession over an ex. Nearly all of my writings, painting, and film making since has been directly and indirectly shaped by that same relationship and I know I've inadvertently hurt others through the years by remaining closed off emotionally.
Therefore, a film about a woman so deeply in love with her departed ex who decides to give birth to his clone and raises him with the hope that he'll love her again isn't creepy to me. It's certainly fucked up, but there's something sadly romantic and sympathetically desperate about it.
Eva Green gives a career turning performance as Rebecca, a lonely soul who returns to the isolated shore town where she briefly lived as a child. During her time there as a youth, she met a boy named Thomas. They developed a deep bond before she moved away to be with her mother in Tokyo.
She returns years later as an adult hoping to re-ignite a spark with her childhood friend. The moment their eyes' meet, they become instantly enamored with each other again. The film suggests that Rebecca may be a virgin, that she's spent her life waiting to be with Thomas again and there is a tinge of creepiness in it all. Unfortunately, Thomas is killed in a freak accident only a day or two after they're reunited and before they're even able to consummate their love. Rebecca immediately decides to have Thomas cloned against his parents' wishes and she'll be the one giving birth to him.
Surprisingly enough, the film's one weakness is a lack of exposition. The film gives little information about the world outside of the relationship between Rebecca and her cloned child. It isn't until halfway through that we learn that cloning is a regular habit in this universe and that clones face social persecution. While it's great to see a filmmaker utilizing the, "show, don't tell" rule, there are many moments that are simply confusing due to the lack of information.
And while the story sounds ludicrous when described in detail, Womb succeeds in taking the time to actually establish the relationship between Rebecca and Thomas. There's an authentic chemistry between these star crossed lovers and calls to mind all of the problems with Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain and other tragic love films that utilize genre elements. As admirably ambitious and aesthetically impressive as that film was, Aronofsky never bothered to show his audience how and why his two characters were in love. It was a film that I wanted to like, its story was right up my alley, but I didn't care about those characters. Aronofsky's melodrama felt cheap and his climatic moments cheated and unearned. Womb is the exact opposite. While the pacing is a challenge, it succeeds in making the audience understand and even feel the amount of time that Rebecca has waited to be with her adult lover once again. When the inevitable moment comes, it is absolutely devastating.
Eva's entire performance lies within her eyes, her gorgeous, beautiful eyes in her gorgeous beautiful face. Who would have ever thought that the requiste hot Bond girl from Casino Royale would turn out to be such a fantastic actress. Although, a fellow filmmaker in the audience quipped that the film's style wasn't poetic and atmospheric but lazy. "The director substituted dialogue and story for nothing more than a series of painfully long close up reaction shots. Bleh!"
But again, it worked for me. Eva's eyes spoke more than all of the awful monologues Hugh Jackman cried out in The Fountain.
Essentially, the entire film is about a woman waiting 21 years to fuck her son, and while many people laughed at the denouement, I found it to be a powerful, erotic, and utterly heart wrenching scene.
Womb is a challenging film that comes highly recommended with caution. Much like Enter the Void, this is a film that requires an enormous amount of patience from the viewer. Those who are willing to let themselves go and be washed away with the material are likely to find many rewards , for everyone else, this is going to be Chinese water torture. And just like Noe's work, both opinions are completely valid. Just don't be the ass in the theater wearing a baseball cap who has to keep telling his trophy girlfriend that, "this is fag shit," because the drunk film snob in front might deck you in the face.