Genre: Drama Director: Benedek Fliegauf Cast: Eva Green, Matt Smith, Lesley Manville, Peter Wight Ralph, Hannah Murray, Ruby O. Fee, Tristan Christopher, Jesse Hoffmann, Natalia Tena, Ella Smith, Wunmi Mosaku RunTime: 1 hr 47 mins Released By: Lighthouse Pictures Rating: R21 (Mature Theme) Official Website: http://www.womb-film.de/ Opening Day: 11 August 2011
Synopsis: Sitting alone on the deck of an isolated beach house, Rebecca recalls how life led to what she considers the "gift" in her enlarged belly...As a little girl visiting her grandfather, shy Rebecca befriends ginger-haired Tommy. They quickly develop a profound friendship during their summer adventures in the remote coastal area. But their fairy-tale romance comes to an end when Rebecca must follow her mother to faraway Tokyo. Twelve years later, young woman Rebecca returns to settle in her late grandfather's house. She seeks out childhood friend Tommy, now a university student living on his own. Their reunion is marked by a strong mutual attraction. As they get to know one another better, Rebecca discovers that Tommy has harbored deep feelings for her too since their time together as children. But their passionate relationship is shortlived when Tommy is killed in a freak car accident. Devastated, Rebecca feels that life cannot go on without Tommy. She turns to the controversial "Department of Genetic Replication" for an option. Although wary of the potential repercussions, Tommy's parents reluctantly agree to supply Rebecca with the necessary DNA sample for her to bear a new Tommy in her womb. Life with little Tommy is full of joy and wonder. Rebecca completely devotes herself to "just us two", living isolated in the middle-of-nowhere shore community. But Rebecca cannot fully escape the complexities of her decision as the years pass. How long will she be able to hide the truth from new Tommy and nosy townsfolk? Can she protect him from prejudice against "copies"? When he grows to manhood in the exact image of her beloved, how will Rebecca explain away the confusing urges that new Tommy doesn't understand? Chilling answers unravel as Rebecca prepares for the bittersweet fruition of a lifelong dream.
A deeply fascinating film on the trials of loss and idealisation, writer-director's Benedek Fliegauf's "Womb" is unlike anything seen this year within its marriage of aesthetics, tone and narrative. As a controversy is generated within its immaculately photographed and insistently static Eastern European art-house countenance, Fliegauf's glacial conundrum consistently confronts and confounds in its inquiry into the human heart and its cold distance from the mind.
While the languid pacing of distracts from the higher aspirations of its concept, the film does regard its subject matter seriously within its undefined universe. Sometime in the future, human civilisation has reached a point of engineering clones through blood and tissue samples of the deceased -- a central premise shared with films like "Gattaca" and the recent "Never Let Me Go" -- that are inseminated through test tube procedures and delivered live through births. And in this world, these clones co-exist, albeit not always peacefully with the naturally conceived and naturally brings out the issues of ostracism and prejudice. The clones share similar attributes to the deceased, not only physically but in their outlooks and interests while the variations appear in the manner of their upbringings -- bringing to mind the ever combustible debate over nature versus nurture.
This discursive science fiction drama acquaints us with these ideas through the clone Thomas (Matt Smith -- television's latest Doctor Who) raised by the woman who gave birth to him, Rebecca (Eva Green). There's an important distinction here that needs to be clarified as it might serve to be the cornerstone of many arguments and counterpoints that will surely ensue from the 'ick' factor emanating from Rebecca and Thomas's shared history as sweethearts since childhood in his previous physical iteration. After his sudden death, a taciturn Rebecca acquires samples and creates a new version of him in relative secret and brings him up under the guise of being his natural mother. The film draws its power from a fundamental question buried deep in its Freudian minefield of psychosexual tension -- what infernal consequences does one bear from birthing and raising one's dead lover into adulthood? It strongly recalls the same sort of Greek tragedy that Orpheus eventually endures attempting to wade through the underworld to retrieve his dead lover, Eurydice.
It is worth noting that while Thomas 2.0 was a caesarian delivery through Rebecca, his genetic makeup entirely belongs to his grieving biological parents. He shares none of her within him and the film garners its incestuous undertones from the way she looks at him with uncertain intentions as he grows up. We get the sense that she does not truly know what she wants to do as he begins to resemble the adult man that she lost all those years ago. He senses an Oedipal pull towards her in their quieter moments that is not discouraged by Rebecca. If you sense a hesitation here on my part to ascertain and declare descriptions of their behaviour, then take a look at the negative spaces employed between the character and their actions in the film, which does create an interesting tonal atmosphere that employs both the intellectual and primal faculties.
But besides the wealth of ethical and moral quandaries that it brings to the table, "Womb" is nonetheless still a movie that needs to be judged as such. An unsentimental dissertation masquerading as a strained filmic exercise that on its technical merits, bears quite a knockout blow in its effortlessly gorgeous cinematography by Peter Szatmari, filmed in the quite stupendous tourist spots of Sankt Peter-Ording and Sylt in Germany. It sets the mood immediately -- desolate, distant and glacial -- much like how the film leaves you reeling with questions and compromises at the end. "Womb" ultimately succeeds in following through with its ideas as everything about the production services its particular themes, right down to the minutiae of its production design, even if it's a tough pill to swallow in its artistic considerations of its slow-burn pacing and alienating tonal shifts.
(Impressively mounted and simply sumptuous production with a unique endeavour into the realm of morality)