Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review of "Womb"

"Fuck that movie." -Sid

Womb is aggressively bad. It appears to have been made by hipsters, for hipsters, with the sole goal in mind of being spectacularly boring. Its lone virtue is the beautiful high-definition camera, which is used to good effect in most of the shots. Beyond that, however, Womb is just terrible.

The movie is a character drama that focuses on the lives of Rebecca and Tommy, in both of his incarnations, but by the end you really know very little about their characters. Rebecca is simply emotionless, staring blankly at her fellow actors for most of the movie, and Tommy isn't much better. It's impossible to relate to them.

Director Benedek Fliegauf's cardinal sin is prolonging shots far, far longer than they need to last, particularly shots of Rebecca staring at Tommy (or anything, really). They're consistently 30 to 40 seconds long and nothing happens in them but the actor staring vacantly, or yet another shot of the house Tommy and Rebecca live in. These aren't a momentary artistic diversion, either; they occur frequently throughout the movie. There's just so much wasted time that could've been used for dialogue, of which Womb has very little. Also, there's virtually no music and no background noise in these shots, so they're just downright boring. If you've seen the cover art with Rebecca staring at something off-camera, you've seen probably a solid 15 minutes of the movie.

I suppose Womb's persistent tendency to convey surpassing awkwardness is a point in its favor. However, there's really no scene in the entire film that isn't skin-crawlingly awkward in some way (Rebecca's staring and the long shots convey this well). It's an awkward subject anyway; I mean, the world's biggest Oedipal complex in Smith combines with the world's most obsessive person in Rebecca. I've seen reviews arguing that it's heartfelt and adorable because of the length Rebecca goes to regain her lost love; I vehemently disagree. Because of Rebecca's lack of character, the act of cloning and raising Tommy comes across as simply creepy rather than something she's doing out of love. (Tangent: I also see Rebecca as one of the most thoroughly selfish characters in cinema, but that's another story. Her selfishness is her defining trait.)

Also, Fliegauf's directing contains perhaps the most heavy-handed use of symbolism I have ever seen. The only thing he doesn't do to get his points across is putting them in a subtitle at the bottom of the screen. Example: Tommy is conflicted about whether he should be with Monica or Rebecca. We know this because there's a shot of both their bedroom doors, which are right next to each other. Both doors are open and both women are lying disconsolately on their respective beds, and Tommy walks between them, then leaves. This takes about a minute and really doesn't deserve 10 seconds.

So, that is Womb. If I've left anything out, it's that the dialogue could probably have been written in about two or three hours by a writer who wasn't concentrating very hard. There's nothing striking, witty, clever or even memorable about any of the lines. Most often the lines aren't even there, replaced by vacant silence where human interaction is supposed to be, and also where people could've justified their actions. Why did Tommy-2 bury the dinosaur? Why did Tommy-1 randomly strip down and jump into the ocean? Why did Rebecca take a solid 12 seconds to seductively eat a banana? How did Tommy-1 become, of all things, a cockroach breeder? These answers just aren't there. Arguably, it's for the viewer to answer these questions, but for me it just felt like apathetic storytelling. On a scale from "I utterly wasted my time" to "You must spend every waking moment of your life seeing this movie", Womb is pretty close to touching the bottom. Don't go here.


Anonymous said...

...I kind of want to see it now, just out of curiousity. Probably as a drinking game.

Andy said...

My friends and I came up with some tentative rules for one while watching it, actually.

-Drink every time the color yellow is oddly prominent.
-Drink whenever someone, usually Rebecca, sheds a single tear.
-Drink whenever Rebecca stares blankly at someone instead of displaying a normal human emotion (warning: this one is dangerous).
-Drink when there's awkward sexual tension between Tommy-2 and Rebecca (also dangerous, as it is most of the last hour).
-Drink when someone randomly strips down and jumps in the ocean.
-Drink when you develop a bruise from being beaten about the head and shoulders with the symbolism.

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