A lack of believable characters is the problem of Benedek Fliegauf’s take on science versus conscience. In his really beautiful Womb, filmed in the muted blues and beiges of a permanently windswept northerly coast, he does something very similar to what’s done in Never Let Me Go. He designs a world that’s like our own, except with a medical advantage, and then has his characters deal with the consequences of the issue, rather than the issue itself.
Like Never Let Me Go, Womb puts great emphasis on production design and takes as its subject human cloning. Rebecca’s purpose is much more self-serving than that of the beneficiaries in Never Let Me Go, whom we never see. When Rebecca’s lover Tommy dies in a car accident, she decides to have him cloned, and more, she becomes his mother, with predictable consequences as the boy gets older. It takes some dragged out and uncomfortable Oedipal/incestuous scenes until she finally tells him the truth, which is apparently enough for both of them to make peace with themselves and each other.
In order to turn Rebecca into a person we can sympathize with, her love for Tommy is elevated to the level of something beyond the merely human (and egotistical) – it’s a fated meeting of soulmates. Unfortunately, this leads to a permanent undercurrent of pretentiousness. Why not simply make a film without incest? Or one about cloning? Putting the two together smacks of vanity in a film that’s otherwise worth a watch.
WOMB | Directed by Benedek Fliegauf (Germany et al. 2010) with Eva Green, Matt Smith. Opens April 7