Womb review

Hungarian director Fliegauf's first English-language film takes the ingenious combination of Eva Green and Matt Smith, and weaves a strange, sad sci-fi psychodrama out of the following premise: what if you loved someone so much that, if they died, you cloned them? That's what Rebecca (Green) does when, after being reunited with childhood sweetheart Tommy (Smith), their blossoming romance is cruelly curtailed by a tragic accident. Cloning offers a way to bring him back. Not in a petri dish, mind – she gives birth to him.

The poet DH Lawrence once wrote: "My son, for whom I have waited like a lover," which is the kind of warped dynamic that comes into play here, except Rebecca is a lover who has waited like a mother. She gives birth to her lost love, breastfeeds him, parents him. He calls her "mum". She's jealous of his girlfriend. It's an Oedipal nightmare for the 21st century – Freud would have a field day. Actually, it's not clear exactly when Womb takes place. It could be the near future, or an alternative present. Either way, this is a world in which cloning is possible, though fraught with social prejudice. "It's not that we're against human replication," says the parent of one of Tommy's schoolmates, angry after discovering Rebecca has invited another "copy" over for tea, but as yet unaware that Tommy is also one such copy. "We just don't want our children coming up against these things firsthand." 

Filmed on Germany's bleak North Sea coast, Womb is shot through with the bleak blues and greys of the sea, with barely a bright colour in sight. Filled with the sight and sound of water, all rain and waves, it creates a bleak, muted world that's somewhere between a twisted fairytale and a dreamworld. Tense and unsettling, it moves languidly through the nightmarish scenarios borne out of its warped premise.

The children who play the young Tommy (Hoffmann, then Christopher) and Rebecca (Fee) are superb, but it's Green's pensive portrayal of the all-too-patient lover-turned-mother that steals the show. This isn't just a subversion of the Oedipus myth, or a DH Lawrence poem made flesh. Womb is claustrophobic, intense and daring, but never comfortable.

Womb at IMDb

Anne Wollenberg

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