Raising the ire of a festival audience, a new Hollywood film pushes the limits of mainstream entertainment, featuring superstar Nicole Kidman in a romantic relationship with a 10-year-old boy.
The scene that has drawn the most attention has Kidman’s character in a bathtub with the boy, although the filmmakers emphasize it involves no sexual activity.
But in a screening of the R-rated film at the Venice Film Festival, the scene drew boos from the audience.
In “Birth,” the Kidman character, a widow named Anna, is confronted by the boy’s claim that his body has been inhabited by her dead husband.
The woman initially dismisses the boy, but she eventually becomes convinced he is telling the truth and falls in love.
“I see this as a beautiful film about love, I do not see it as something that is exploitive or distasteful,” Kidman told Associated Press Television News. “I would never want to make something like that; it’s just not my thing.”
The actress, 37, said she was drawn to the film, which opens tomorrow, because “it is about the strength of love, and the memory of love, and the desire to have that exist forever.”
The New York Post said “Birth” has been described as “Mary Kay Letourneau meets ‘Ghost,'” referring to the teacher convicted of rape for a relationship with a 13-year-old and the 1990 romantic comedy.
Kidman admitted to the Post that the bathtub scene – which is shot over her bare back and shows the boy from the waist up – is unusual, “but the whole film is unusual.”
“It’s not about sex, you know, it’s certainly not about sex,” she said, according to the Post. “It’s about love, it’s about being … under the spell of somebody.”
Another scene has Anna kissing, on the lips, the boy, played by 11-year-old Canadian Cameron Bright.
She asks, as they share ice-cream, if he has ever made love to a girl.
Kidman said the film is meant to make people feel uncomfortable, “but not in a way where you’re trying to exploit a young boy.”
With a son nearly the same age as Bright, Kidman admitted, however, it felt strange to kiss her co-star.
“It sort of was, but . . . the first time I read [the script] I really saw it, because when you read it you’re not picturing a child,” she said, according to the Post.
“You’re actually reading a story and it sort of washes over you and you absorb the themes of the film … loss and grief and the desire for somebody to come back.”
“Birth” director Jonathan Glazer said he did not intend to be salacious, but understands he’s touched on the “ultimate taboo in many respects.”
“But for me [the bathtub scene] was an important part of the story – it was essential for [Kidman’s character] to be confronted by that absolute no-go area.
“The context of that scene is sacred in a way.”
Kidman insisted everyone involved with the film was careful to guard the boy’s innocence and didn’t allow him to read the script.
Many of the reaction shots in the bath scene were filmed separately, she pointed out.
“I believe in … keeping it so that Cameron just thinks it’s kind of fun and a job and, you know, he gets to get a bit of money and have a great lunch and then he goes home,” she said, according to the Post.
“He doesn’t quite know what he’s doing, which is good.”
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