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(aka "Womb" )

 

directed by Benedek Fliegauf
Germany/Hungary/France 2010

 

While staying with her grandfather at the seaside, 9-year-old Rebecca (Ruby O. Fee) forms a deep bond with 10-year-old Tommy (Tristan Christopher) that is cut short when her mother gets a job in Tokyo. Twelve years later, Rebecca (now Eva Green, THE DREAMERS) reconnects with Tommy (now Matt Smith, TV's current DOCTOR WHO) and their relationship takes on a more adult angle. When Tommy is suddenly killed in a road accident, Rebecca approaches his parents about cloning him (with her as the surrogate mother). Tommy's mother Judith (Lesley Manville, ANOTHER YEAR) is against it, but her husband Ralph (Peter Wight, ATONEMENT) secretly signs the permission forms (since he and his wife have decided to move far away from the place where their son was killed). Rebecca gives birth and raises Tommy (Tristan Christopher again), telling him that his father was killed in an accident; but she soon discovers the growing prejudice the fellow mothers have against "copies". When the mothers ostracize Tommy and forbid their children from playing with him, Rebecca (without telling him why) quickly moves herself and Tommy to a cabin by the sea. Tommy grows up isolation with only the affection of his mother; but that does not hinder his sexual development and Rebecca finds herself conflicted about the grown Tommy's (Matt Smith again) relationship with Monica (Hannah Murray, of Burton's DARK SHADOWS [also with Green]). Tommy's own confused feelings towards his mother demand answers - especially after a tense visit from Judith - but Rebecca would have to reveal the truth about her relationship with the original Tommy to explain her son's existence.

The first English language feature of Hungarian director Benedek Fliegauf (MILKY WAY), the German/Hungarian/French co-production CLONE - originally titled WOMB - feels too calculated in the "neither show nor tell" ambiguity of its scripting (and editing) and its arthouse stylings without really exploring the film's thought-provoking central conceit about the ramifications of copying and raising a loved one (in the film, one clone is described as the "victim of artificial incest" because she was believed to be a "copy" of a mother birthed by her own daughter). The plot point about the bigotry towards clones is only brought up to further isolate mother and son in their own little world for the middle section of the film. The lack of anything beyond concrete about the experiences of clones - other than social shunning - weakens the impact of Tommy's identity crisis upon finding out; even more so because the uncloned characters are just as devoid of characterization (and nothing is really made of how much of Rebecca's own identity is sacrificed in trying to replicate Tommy in his clone, then again we are really given little of her personality as a girl and even less as an adult before Tommy's death). We know there's supposed to be tension between Rebecca, Tommy, and Monica but even this is underplayed to the point where it seems like the director was more interested in "arthouse-y" understatement than drama and suspense.

The "how far will they go" transgressive incest aspect of the story is so cynically calculated; not only is it not shocking (or even particularly creepy since 1) it's Eva Green, and 2) we can feel just when the director will elliptically cut away), . Long silent takes start to feel more tedious than pensive (the film probably could have achieved its same mood at a shorter running time). The film does get a lot of charge out of tense silences around awkward situations, but the climactic "encounter" feels neither organic nor a shocking tone-shift. Smith's swinging back and forth between wistful and violent feels a bit more natural. The DVD cover has a blurb stating that Smith - whose participation is emphasized over that of Green - "brings the eccentricity of his Doctor Who character to the screen" and, although I'm not familiar with his current stint as Doctor Who, I'm assuming it refers to his single motor-mouthed quirky monologue on birds. Green - whose only signs of "aging" throughout the film are pulling her hair farther back and gradually darkening circles under her eyes - mechanically (thanks to the script) goes through the full range of emotions, but generally plays it numb. Technical credits are slick, from the chilly lensing of cinematographer Péter Szatmári, the sparse scoring of Max Richter (who also scored Eva Green's other recent arthouse sci-fi pic PERFECT SENSE), to the drawn-out white-on-gray opening credits sequence and backwards rolling end credits.

Eric Cotenas

Posters

Theatrical Release: 7 April 2011 (Hungary)

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DVD Review: Arrow Films - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Arrow Films

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:47:20 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

2.36:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.9 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Arrow Films

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.36:1

Edition Details:
• Inside CLONE (16:9; 21:47)
• Trailer (16:9; 1:07)
• Start-up trailer for PERFECT SENSE

DVD Release Date: May 7th, 2012
Amaray in Lenticular Sleeve

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Arrow's DVD edition features a single layer, progressive, anamorphic encoding with 2.0 stereo audio. Presumably the film was mixed in 5.1 and - as with their DVD of THE SHRINE - Arrow has gone with a downmix for the SD edition (a Region 'B' Blu-ray is also available HERE from Arrow Films, reportedly with DTS-MA 5.1). The mix is not too active with little music and mainly atmospheric sound effects, and only the occasional raised voices; nevertheless, the original surround mix would have been preferable. A typically EPK making-of featurette and a trailer round out the package.

Stateside, the film has reportedly been picked up for distribution by Olive Films (who will presumably release it under the title WOMB).

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

Arrow Films

Region 2 - PAL

 




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