[quote=Joe Kelley]The New York Times had a hard time not choking on it.
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Tracking the messy miracle, with computerized help
By Virginia Heffernan
The New York Times
Full-frontal images of a vagina are available on cable Sunday night, but they come at a price. You have to watch a bloody, hairy baby burst through that vagina, and before that you have to watch the little creature in utero, growing in all its Operation Rescue propaganda detail, in the National Geographic Channel’s latest unveiling of the hideous miracle of life.
“In the Womb” is actually a cool, beautiful movie, a celebration of computer imaging and the 4-D ultrasound. It exhibits a minimum of politics, probably because it appears to have been made in England, where the acknowledgement that humans in the womb are complex, dreaming, pain-experiencing, memory-having, walk-practicing, music-enjoying entities does not instantly put you in the same camp as doctor assassins and purveyors of “The Silent Scream.”
Instead of politics, what “In the Womb” delivers is the majesty of science. The filmmakers follow an unnamed woman through her pregnancy, down to the smallest observable detail; where this one pregnancy - the one that results in a live birth at the end of the film - fails to tell the whole story, images of other embryos and fetuses, some computer-generated, are brought in.
The results include a stirring set of images, and a number of revelations. The first is that the path of sperm from testes to egg, which has until recently been a mystery, may be determined by smell: sperm may be able to scent out the egg. The second is that fetuses start practicing walking while in the womb; the stepping reflex is visible as early as 11 weeks into the pregnancy.
The third revelation is that babies can recognize their mothers’ voices prenatally, and even reflect an appreciation of their mothers’ rhythms in their own postnatal cries. What musicologist was able to measure that? We don’t learn, but “In the Womb” makes a convincing case for this mimetic rhythm anyway, going on to cite studies in which crying babies were readily soothed by songs and even nursery rhymes that they heard regularly while in the womb.
The rather impressionistic movie follows its designated mother and her shadowy male partner around as they go about their lives, which consist chiefly of padding around a house on the ocean, talking on the phone, making stir-fry, driving in a convertible listening to rock music, and going to the doctor for ultrasounds.
The ultrasounds are in four dimensions, meaning that they show not only shaded, nuanced, highly detailed images of the fetus, but also her (it’s female) moving in real time. The downside is that the images on the fancy ultrasounds look kind of warty and off-color, not like the cute black-and-white blurs on regular ultrasounds. Without a word acknowledging this, “In the Womb” nonetheless relies on computer-generated images based on the ultrasounds more than on the ultrasounds themselves. The computer neatly smoothes out the images and makes them look less lumpy and gummy. This may not be good science, but it’s definitely easier to look at.
In fact, after all the pink-tinted images of the little sweetie with her big eyes, the actual entrance of this baby into the world is something of a shock. First there’s the extreme close-up of the genitalia, to the tune of the mother’s screams. And then there’s the bursting-out of the baby. Sure, she’s cute, but she’s also discolored and covered in slime. Birth in this otherwise serene movie is a rude awakening, as it always is.