The Baby of Mācon (1993)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
The Baby of Macon is a sumptuous-looking but ultimately shallow tale of manipulation, greed, and religious fanaticism set in Peter Greenaway's favorite, the 17th century. In the city of Macon, an ugly woman suddenly bears a beautiful, healthy baby. Her fellow citizens perceive it as a wonder, with rumors circulating that she could not be the real mother of the child. Her 18-year-old virginal daughter (Julia Ormond) tries to use the situation, claiming that the baby is her own and was born as a result of an immaculate conception. The citizens start to worship the baby and the outraged Roman Catholic Church finally intervenes. Aiming at disclosure of the whole Christian mythology, which, according to Greenaway, always served to manipulate people, The Baby of Macon lacks passion or commitment. Even the much publicized violence, including an unseen multiple rape and the onscreen dismemberment of the baby, seems routine and uninspired rather than shocking. ~ Yuri German, Rovi … More
as The Daughter
as The Bishop's Son
as The Bishop
as Cosimo Medici
as The Father Confessor
as The Major Domo
as Wet Nurse
as Mother Superior
as Entourage Servant
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Critic Reviews for The Baby of Mācon
I watched it to the end out of a sense of duty, not with pleasure or any hope of edification.
It's unpleasant to view, but is not without many rewards if you can be open-minded and sit through its anti-religious views of the nativity.
Audience Reviews for The Baby of Mācon
This is a wild one -- perhaps best described as the document of a "snuff play" being staged in the 1600s? The enclosed play concerns a hideous old woman who gives birth to an improbably beautiful son. The woman's virginal daughter (Julia Ormond) passes off the child as her own, and proclaims him a messiah-like miracle. He is worshipped for a time, but eventually, the people turn against him and his mother.
This rather simple story is lavishly obfuscated and complicated with director Peter Greenaway's usual baroque treatment. The sets and costumes are spectacular and, as always, there is plenty of frontal nudity (yup, Ralph Fiennes shows his wee-wee). Three particular scenes are grotesquely violent and bound to turn off many viewers, but if you can get past the first few minutes -- where a naked, twitching, undead lunatic sputters some opening lines so laboriously that you won't even understand all the words -- you'll probably be able to stomach the rest of the film without any real trouble.
Simple gratitude for Peter after watching this stunningly disturbing medieval drama that exploited the humanity, greed, sacrifice, morality, sex and violence. I have no seen a film that is as beautifully filmed as this one, the cinematography was beyond comprehension. The film is shot in the style of a play within a film, with lots of breaking the fourth wall through out the film. The story is complicated tale of basically the seven deadly sins: Lust, Sloth and Greed of the Daughter, Envy from the Church, Pride of the Son of Bishop, Wrath and Gluttony of the Villagers of Macon. The theme is really dark, but with the complementation of the use of lighting and colour of the costume, it was presented as a macabre satire of religions and the original sin. The script was splendid, every single line was crafted perfectly with so much subtext, and also acted quite superbly. The use of chorus in the film was significant, added a sense of surrealism but with some reference to the Greek tragic theatre. The music was great, created a mixed feeling for the viewers. Off course, the film has some absurd elements as well to shock the audience: The lifeless corpses that seemed out of place, real baby instead of a fake planned one and the slaughter of animals which made the film extremely controversial. The exploration of science and religion was a major conflict in the film, it made the viewers wonder that maybe neither can co-exist in harmony, by the copulation of these two ideas resulted in war and death. It's one of the greatest film that I've seen, but not recommended to everyone as it requires a huge amount of maturity and understanding of the graphic materials in the film.
The thing that you must consider when watching the film The Baby of Macon is that it isn't just another disturbing film, its delivery and cinematography are masterful to say the least. The set design is also quite good, the only thing against it is the content. Like most of director Peter Greenaway's other films, The Baby of Macon includes a lot of very disturbing ideas and concepts. The story begins as a play within a play, this concept is so well executed that when watching the movie it is very hard to understand what he wanted to convey as real and what is supposed to be the play.
The story begins in the village of Macon, a town that is plagued by famine, pestilence, and barrenness. Suddenly like a light coming out of the darkness a fat, old, and ugly woman from the town miraculously gives birth to a baby boy. Immediately afterwards the womans daughter imprisons her mother and claims that she had the boy by means of immaculate conception. She exploits the previously joyus event by selling the blessings of the child to the weak and weary townsfolk. Now as a brief aside, the acting in this film is very well played both Julia Ormond and Ralph Fiennes are amazing in this film and hit most if not all of their marks.
At this point in the film the Catholic Church feels that they must intervene because someone claims to have a holy child, is making a profit, and is not cutting them in! The Bishops Son played by Ralph Fiennes is sent to prove that the young woman is indeed not a virgin and is in fact a blasphemer. The Son who is a believer in science and is a religious skeptic doubts the validity of the daughters story. She attempts to convince him that she is indeed a virgin offering him her virginity stating that if he were to enter her, his prick would be covered in blood. Before he is able to consummate this strange sexual union the supposedly holy baby commands a bull to kill him and it does. The Bishop arrives to find his son gored to death and the virgin covered in his blood. The blame for his sons death falls squarely upon the shoulders of the virgin daughter.
The Bishop takes custody of the baby of Macon and the Church begins to exploit him and the town on a far grander scale than the daughter previously had. The daughter decides that the best way to deal with this betrayal of the faithful is to quietly suffocate the baby to death. Then the church sentences the girl to death, but since she is a virgin they cannot legally kill her outright. So the Bishop instead sentences her to be raped 208 times (not a very fun scene to sit through). Then the church dismembers the babies body and sells the remains as religious relics. The film ends with plague, pestilence, and famine once again falling upon the poor people in the town of Macon. This film is good, but is a huge bummer.
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