Hardcore Henry comes out this weekend (you can buy tickets here), and to celebrate, we're going to spend the week looking at films that share some element of its first-person, videogame inspired aesthetic.
Though The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 is not a good movie, director Bill Condon manages to wring some genuine fun out of the otherwise dried-out sponge that was his source material. When Bella finally gives birth to the parasitic accident that’s been leeching her health all movie, Condon ramps up the crazy and utilizes an exciting combination of first-person point-of-view shots and close-ups to showcase a surprisingly unnerving birthing sequence.
Condon uses a lot of visual tricks during the POV shots to amp up energy. The very upper-half of the screen is blackened to simulate Bella’s eyelids. Condon also messes around with the depth-of-field, fuzzying certain shots before shunting them jarringly into focus. Some shots transition into bright flashes of light as well as dark, empty blackouts before jumping back to the haunting caesarian birth playing out on-screen.
When the scene starts we’re with a weak, ineffectual Bella who is also in agonizing pain. Though the scene does switch to close-ups of Bella’s pallid face, it’s the shots in Bella’s POV - alternating between fuzzy distortion and startling clarity, panning helplessly around the mythological creatures performing do-it-yourself obstetrics - that really make certain moments stand out. The first shot of interest arrives when Rosalie, one of the female vampires, performs a c-section on Bella. We watch Rosalie slice under Bella’s swollen belly before the screen blacks out. When Bella’s eyes open again, we follow Rosalie’s blood-spattered hand as it gradually pulls up to her blankly intense face, drained of the preceding care and worry and quickly filling with an uncontrollable bloodlust
Rosalie is tackled and removed, and between Bella’s screams and black outs, the camera alternates from the face of a visibly disturbed Jacob to Edward biting through the embryonic sack, coating his face in blood. We watch Edward reveal the red ribbons lining his sharp teeth as he smiles at his daughter for the first time, pulling the newborn out of postpartum fluid and into our POV. The final shot in the first-person sequence shows Edward lovingly cradling a computer-generated image of the hybrid newborn, whose aforementioned CGI-ness makes the whole scene even more unsettling.
The scene itself is just under three minutes long, but it’s an crazy three minutes that effectively uses a subjective viewpoint to dramatize an intense experience. Though Condon “cheats” with more traditional shots as well, the shots that are in first-person are purposeful and motivated, acting as visual exclamation points.
Why such an intense version of this scene exists in a Twilight movie is anyone's guess, but Breaking Dawn - Part 1 would definitely be a lesser film without it.