Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Baby of Macon (Peter Greenaway) - 1993

I couldn't be happier that I saved The Baby of Macon as the last of the Greenaway films to watch. The reason it was the last, it is near impossible to get your hands on a Region 1 copy. The Baby of Macon was never released on DVD in the states. Also, the film is only, on rare occasions, screened in theaters for festivals and special events.

The Baby of Macon was created, in part, as Greenaway's response to cultural outrage to a British billboard of a new born baby, covered in blood with umbilical cord attached. The billboard was quickly removed due to public outcry. This caused Greenaway to question why society is so sensitive to images of a newborn baby, but willing to sit through films where rape and violence is made to look glamorous, or at least presentable. Greenaway set out to create a film to attack the senses.

And, attack he did. The Baby of Macon is a constant visual of violence, hatred, and disgust. From the start, a nude overweight woman with her face covered gives birth to a child. The first child born in the village in a long time. This is viewed as a miracle. The townspeople decide to taste, wash their faces, and smell the afterbirth in hopes of receiving some of the good luck. The birth mother's daughter decides to trick people into believing the child is her own. A virgin birth in a city of infertile women.

The baby becomes Christ-like. The daughter starts to sell the child's urine, strands of hair, etc as good luck charms for women hoping to have children. The daughter has hidden her father and mother away so they do not reveal the truth of the baby. Soon the church begins to question the virgin birth. It is quite interesting how quickly Greenaway has the church up against the idea of the virgin birth, but then suddenly they are in favor once they have control over the child. The church exploits the child in a way the daughter never imagined.

The film includes a nude man gored to death by a bull, the eating of the after birth, the murder of a child, cannibalism, and a gang rape including 207 men. The film doesn't pretend to be viewer friendly. But, Greenaway never intended to be. And, is quite successful in his goals.

The story is presented as a play. We see the stage. We see the audience. We see behind the stage. We see the actors out of character for a bit. The film is a mix between Prospero's Books stage quality and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover's disturbing plot.

There is so much to say about this film: costumes, acting, score, images, ideas, theories, beauty, etc. I fear giving too much away. In fact, already giving away more than I should. This is a film you will feel as you watch. I add it to my list of most painful/disturbing films (Salo, Dancer in the Dark, Irreversible).


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