Monday, 14 June 2010


Shot in a gentle meditative manner, Albert Serra’s Birdsong conveys the story of the Three Wise Men journeying to Bethlehem for the birth of Christ. Their travels bring them across breathtaking empty landscapes of all terrains, and only the sound of birdsong is to guide their way. Throughout their journey, the men chat, argue and moan, their crowns losing status as they grow more puerile. Meanwhile, Mary and Joseph have taken shelter in a small hut, where a visual pun involving a lamb suggests that Jesus has already been born. Music is almost entirely absent, save for a flourish at the point of the magi’s arrival.

The plot implies a heavy Pasolini influence, and this is visible in Serra’s handling of the subject matter, but there is something about his version of events. Most notable is the way in which he humanises the Three Wise Men – these aren’t men capable of herculean sufferance, but living human beings, vulnerable to boredom, hunger and thirst. In this way, Serra both demystifies and realises elements of the nativity story, as the magi while away hours with philosophical discussion about the world. It is perhaps most appropriate to say that Birdsong is a magical experience – Serra does not wish to convert, nor is he as cynical as Pasolini. The film’s long takes and extensive silence can make it a trial to watch, particularly as they lack the substance and power of, say, Sátántangó, but that’s not to say it isn’t worth watching at all.

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