The film shows how powerful nostalgia can be and how difficult it can be to let go.
Hungarian director Benedek Fliegauf’s Womb is a quiet, abstract, and eerie science fiction film about a woman who has a hard time of letting go. There is no doubt that it has drawn some controversy due to incest playing a big role in the film. With a taboo subject, slow moving and depressing feel, it is easy to see how Womb would be difficult for the average viewer to sit through, however, I found no such difficulties.
Womb begins with a voice over, “Just because you went away, it does not mean you are not here anymore. Perhaps I all ever needed was this gift. The one you gave to me at the end.” The last line is important as this opening scene is really the end. It is hard to call it foreshowing because if you pay attention it practically gives the ending away.
A friendship begins when two young children meet on a rainy beach underneath a dock. Soon Rebecca and Thomas share much of their time with one another which normally consists of going on beach adventures together. But that does not last for long as Rebecca informs Thomas that she will be moving away with her mother to Tokyo to live in an apartment on the 72nd floor.
The film then jumps ahead 12 years later when Rebecca (Eva Green) is now an adult. We see her take the same ferry back into the town she left on as a child. Rebecca now lives in the same house she grew up in. Eager to see Thomas she finds out that he does not live too far away from where he grew up at. When the two do finally meet again as adults Thomas (Matt Smith) remembers the exact floor number of the apartment she moved away to so long ago.
Not long after the two reunite Thomas tragically dies in a car accident. This is where Womb takes an interesting turn. While mourning his loss she comes up with the bizarre idea of giving birth to his clone so that she can effectively bring him back into the world again. Perhaps cloning him is Rebecca’s way of coping with the idea of Thomas’s death being her fault. At least that would be the most logical answer but that is when the film takes another turn, a controversial one at that.
Never moving faster than it needed to, sometimes even a bit too slow, the film showed us subtle hints of something deeply troubling Rebecca. There is intense passion she has for her son/lover that goes back and forth between being a mother and being attracted to her deceased lover.
The director of photography, Peter Szatmari, repeatedly shows long empty shots of an overcast beach, resulting in beautiful cinematography that was carefully done. It accurately portrays the loneliness and isolation that is found in Rebecca.
In a lot of ways Eva Green’s character in this film is similar to the one she played in the Jordan Scott’s marvelous film Cracks. Both of the characters had to deal with unconventional sexual desires. Green’s performance here is solid, on the outside there is not a lot going on but it is evident that on the inside she is torn.
Because Womb moves at a snail’s pace, some audiences may find it difficult to hold their interest in it. Others may find it hard to get over the underlying theme of incest. If you can get past those two big hurdles then you will see the film does have something to offer aside from the amazing cinematography. The film shows how powerful nostalgia can be and how difficult it can be to let go.