It may not be red and raw, but Birth is still long and laboured.
Morag Reavley 2004-11-24
Screams, gasps, expletives, the bleating of lungs straining for their first drags of air the bloody sounds of childbirth. Fortunately for those of a squeamish disposition, the soundtrack to Birth, Nicole Kidman's latest cinematic outing, does not in any way resemble them.
Instead Alexandre Desplat, whose credits include "Girl with a Pearl Earring" and a host of French films, has constructed a soundtrack which is classically elegant and restrained to the point of glaciality.
But then, as a film, Birth is not a bundle of joy. A harrowing psychological drama about loss and grief, the plot revolves around a beautiful, wealthy widow upon the point of remarriage, whose late husband apparently returns in the figure of a ten-year-old boy.
To conjure the orderly, patrician Manhattan milieu in which the action takes place, Desplat employs lush, string-heavy orchestration and piano solos. Waltzes predominate, as in "The Engagement" and "Birth Waltz", suggesting the public, decorous nature of even the most intimate relationships in this claustrophobic world.
Breaking in on the classical harmony is a different kind of music - strained, moody, nervous. In "The Rendez-vous", for example, a racing pulse, heavy timpani and dissonant string flurries cut across the dance rhythm. Childish instruments and nursery-ish melodies ominously evoke the strange aura of the boy who creates the crisis within the family, as in the suspenseful "Day Out". Pregnant pauses abound. It bears more than a passing resemblance to the score of a horror film.
Which makes the score ultimately little more than a collection of musical cliches. Drawing heavily on the formulae of weepies and supernatural chillers, the score does not extend the musical language of either, nor provide any sequences which linger in memory after the last waltz tinkles to an end.
It may not be red and raw, but Birth is still long and laboured. More gas, please.