Baby Bump (2015)
Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the Venice Film Festival. For more information visit http://www.labiennale.org/en/cinema/ and follow La Biennale on Twitter at @la_Biennale.
Undoubtedly, Kuba Czekai’s Baby Bump (2015) will divide audiences. It is certainly one of the strangest films to ever be made, boasting furthermore some of the most explicit shots of taboo objects such as piss, penises, cum, blood, vaginas, breasts, and masturbation. It is vulgar beyond reproach and unapologetically so. Czekaj wanted to show how the grotesque nature of reaching puberty and facing bodily changes is not for the faint of heart.
The film takes place in a kind of mythological world, where reality and imagination coexist and there are no boundaries. In this way, Czekaj can trace Mickey Hart’s (Kacper Olszewski) experience of growing up by seamlessly intertwining real life, Mickey’s perception, and Mickey’s imagination. Baby Bump is not so much a story as it is a tapestry of the disturbing and uncomfortable experience of growing up. Without much of a narrative, and by blending reality and imagination, the film functions more like music, with each nonsensical event gaining power through the film’s superbly formal and stylistic evocation of emotion.
It is vulgar beyond reproach and unapologetically so. Czekaj wanted to show how the grotesque nature of reaching puberty and facing bodily changes is not for the faint of heart.
Highly saturated colours, split frames, CGI, animation, and sound effects are just some of the manners by which Czekaj commits his aesthetic preferences to film. The result is a highly sensory wall of images and sounds which grip the viewer and hold one hostage. Some images intrigue, some images offend, but every image is carefully designed to express the feelings of fear, and torment, and depravity which are linked with the theme of ‘growing up: not for children’.
To some, the imagery will be obnoxious and off-putting. It’s rather difficult to watch everything shown. Czekaj’s Baby Bump makes Harmony Korine’s Gummo look as normal as a Disney movie, and there are many who cannot sit through the latter. It might not be comfortable to watch Baby Bump in public. During a viewing, one might find oneself thinking, “Ew Gross!! Why is this happening? What is the point?” But this is part of the experience, the vulgar experience, and with this film, Czekaj could easily reach a number of cult followers or perhaps the vulgar auteurist crowd. While the film is rather offensive and obnoxious at times, it is in no way boring, banal, superfluous or poorly constructed. It is what it is, and it has many artistic qualities hidden beneath all the tawdry images.
Some of the plot-centred ideas in the film involve a urine network, wherein Mickey provides clean urine for paying customers, an incest theme, wherein Mickey’s newfound sensations and his mother’s projection of pre-pubescence coincide in a sickly, semi-perverted surge of libidinous tension, and there is a little mouse named Jerboa who has exited the television, entered Mickey’s imagination, and tells him what to do and what to think, like a little devil on his shoulder with an innocent English lady accent. These three stories develop and culminate into Mickey’s panic of growing and changing, and only help to confuse the already confused boy.
Czekaj’s Baby Bump makes Harmony Korine’s Gummo look as normal as a Disney movie, and there are many who cannot sit through the latter.
In fear of his development, Mickey tapes his ears shut and glues parts of his body together. He has radical dreams of ripping his penis off in a big pool of blood, of entertaining a large pregnant belly and full breasts, and of chopping a chicken’s head off as some sort of cathartic end to the cycle of birth-giving. A recurring motif of eggs, his mother eating eggs like she’s eating his pre-pubescent life-force, and of eggs hatching, as if to become, through puberty, an adult chicken. It is all very strange, very abstract, and requires one to be open to sometimes off-putting images in order to see some of the mad genius at the core.
To some extent, Baby Bump is a case of style over substance, but it’s not because there is no substance. The style and artistic method which Czekaj has employed is the way in which substance is realized. The film’s style, its visual and aural experience, expresses itself on a less literary and more poetic level. While there is not much going on in terms of storytelling and development, the film is brimming with affective images, cinematic intentions, and authentic exposition.
One of the most powerful scenes of the film is particularly nonsensical. After stomping Jerboa mouse and thus becoming free to exact ‘revenge’, Mickey is dreamily seen wearing a King’s crown and parading through the school hallway to an electronic beat. His classmates run in fear, as he is all powerful. An intertitle appears at a well edited moment and then Mickey’s reality is shown, with him sitting against a wall by his lonesome. The scene is highly captivating, well edited, and transitions perfectly between imagination and reality.
Ultimately, while Baby Bump is a tough watch, can be obnoxious or even headache inducing, it is doubtless thoughtful, ambitious, and technically fortuitous. It will certainly develop a cult following as it is one of the better films to use vulgarity and the super-sensational and hyper active tone of twenty-first century media to authentically replicate personal experience, in this case the personal experience of growing up.
Baby Bump is not so much a story as it is a tapestry of the disturbing and uncomfortable experience of growing up.