The Baby of Macon (1993) by Peter Greenaway
I've watched this yesterday and I think it is one of the best Greenaway films I've seen so far (haven't seen much yet). I'd still say I like Draughtsman's Contract more, but this comes pretty close.
I have looked around the web, read reviews of it and whatnot, and thought that this film is getting unfairly trashed, where it should've been hailed along with other Greenaway masterpieces. The weird thing is that it is being put under so much heat for the scenes which I think is its strengths. Now, I don't wanna spoil the horrific scene at the end where the world ends and the baby turns into a huge green monster and start throwing up all the bananas he had eaten, therefore the rest of my analysis will be wrapped in a spoiler tag.
[spoiler:1rcjcbty]Great acting, wonderful framing and camera movement and all that has been discussed elsewhere, so I will only offer a few interesting points other than the obvious.
Firstly, there is the brutal rape sequence, definitely one of the most horrifying film moments ever. I am with the majority of the critics who says that this was the only way such scene could be depicted, because we don't want to glorify rape. Even if the actress was really guilty of the sins committed by her character (mostly greed), does she deserve such cruel and inhuman punishment? If the rape was played out as a playact, then we would have felt much less of the brutality, and may even have thought that justice is being done. It is through Greenaway's blurring the line between the play and the reality (the reality within this film) that we question the integrity of the justice system of the era, and even perhaps its reflections on today's justice system.
The actress is a neutral character who played an immoral character driven by greed. Cosimo condemns her because he confuses the play with the reality, even though one of his servants reminds him it is only a play. Through all this, Greenaway puts us in an interesting position. We are judging Greenaway in a similar way to how Cosimo judged the actress. He confuses us our reality with the reality in the film by blurring his reality and his play. If we are to dismiss this film for showing us this brutal and horrifying reality, then we need to remind ourselves that it is only a film. So what is the implication of this? My interpretation is that just like what Cosimo needed but lacked, Greenaway is reminding us, that we need to resist being swayed by our emotions, and instead we should, with reason and rationale, try to gather the meanings and the messages of the film; again, like how Cosimo should have done with the play within the film.
Now then, with reason and rationale, what are the meanings and the messages of this film we ask? There are many, ofcourse this is a very rich work, but one of the main one is that we need to resist being swayed by our emotions, and instead we should, with reason and rationale, try to gather the meanings and the messages of the film. On the other hand, Greenaway fills his film with a lot of brutality, not just the rape, but the gory death of Ralph Fiennes character and the death of the bull. Does this mean my previous analysis is wrong? No, I think he provokes us enough to challenge us from doing what we should be doing, and sometimes crossing the line to make us more confused. Wow now that is mindblowing.
Lastly, how authentic is the play within the film? There are only two short scenes (one right before the rape), where we see the actors playing out of their characters. Are these really not parts of the play? The play is shown in such a way that in some scenes, the audiences (within the film) cannot possibly see the play. Clearly, Greenaway is not interested in depicting the play in a genuine historically accurate way. All of this and the fact that in the end Cosimo is bowing to the audiences, and then the audiences bowing to us, totally blurs the line between the play, the film, and the reality, our reality.
Ah and yes, how about the death of the bull? No, we don't see an onscreen slaughter, but we do see a dead one. Perhaps animal cruelty is the point where everyone says everything else does not matter. I don't know what I'm talking about anymore. aerpjgaperijgapergiehipearhpienjhripejhi
Masterpiece... for making me go nuts.[/spoiler:1rcjcbty]
I rented a DVD version of it (Siren R4 Australia) and the transfer is easily one of the worst I've ever seen. The aspect ratio is incorrect (luckily I could fix it from my player), and it just looks really bad. I believe the UK (or was it US) version of it was again from Siren, and was wondering how good or bad the transfers are on those.
Thoughts (both on film and DVD)?
Last edited by BertoltNietzsche on Thu Apr 13, 2006 7:00 am, edited 1 time in total.