Eye For Film >> Movies >> Birth Of A Nation (2010) Film Review
Birth Of A Nation
Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson
Shot at a Russian Cadet School, Birth Of A Nation is a surprising, sometimes discomfiting portrait of a seemingly archaic institution and those training within it. Daya Cahern's film makes bold use of a split screen - up to six sets of events happen before us, and as with any uniform one finds oneself searching for the differences between them, adding weight to the similarities. The girls are smiling, hair braided, bright red epaulettes and strict parade ground stepping. Smiling, sharing a kitchen, some active, some not. There are marked differences; ironing, chatting, waiting, bullets being fed into in a magazine. Hospital corners and floral bedspreads and teddy bears at attention for inspection.
It's often silent; the quietness is a brave choice. There are plentiful opportunities across the screens for sound mixing with feet on parquetry and concrete, and weapons being field-stripped, and teenage girls being teenage girls. The slow rattle of bullets pushed out of magazines and the other bustles and buzz of this martial domesticity. That dearth of sound is a strength, however; it's hard to escape the symbolism of the drumbeat, harder still when one can only remember one has been hearing it. There is a moment that can only be described as chorally stunning and its power would be lessened if it weren't for the focus on the visual.
It is documentary, but at a minimal level - observation perhaps, rather than reportage. Yet in the constructedness of its approach, the split-screens, the mute passage of time before us, it becomes evocative, enlightening, impressive. The smiling faces of girls who could be twins, their pistols pointing at the camera, the bored face of their instructor at the desk behind. That rat-a-tat of the drums, another uniform, another cadence, another order. This is striking stuff, and worth watching.Reviewed on: 07 Feb 2012