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In Utero (2015) Review

The pre-festival screening of In Utero took place the day before CPH: DOX Festival started. It was a slow, quiet and foggy day in the capital of Denmark. As I arrived at the cinema (Empire Bio is located in the most diverse borough of Copenhagen, Nørrebro) I noticed approximately 30 baby carriages parked in front of the theater, which is not that strange for this pro-family nation. Even knowing that I couldn’t help myself not look around for baby doctor’s office or kindergarten. No, they were all parked IN FRONT OF the cinema. As I entered the theater’s screening room they were all there, the inhabitants of the baby carriages. All the mothers armed with toys, bottles, and blankets were all trying to calm their screaming babies down. I took it as a challenge for my focus skills. But before the movie even started the entire room turned completely quiet.  I noticed all the women were breastfeeding their babies. The event was so synchronized that I had the feeling I was watching Russian Swimming Ballet. And then I got it! Of course! It was lunchtime! 12.30. Once again the day turned slow, quiet and foggy.

In Utero explores a significant number of outside factors contributing to the development of a human being in its prenatal growth. The movie dwells on the idea that environmental factors are often more important than the genetic ones, focusing on how the parents’ emotions, especially the mothers’, affects the child’s later psychological health.

Gyllenhaal managed to bring together a group of up and coming experts to back up her thesis. Featured experts are Gabor Maté, M.D., Rachel Yehuda, Ph.D., Thomas R. Verny, M.D., Dr. Moriah E. Thomason, Ph.D., Dr. Bernard Bail, M.D., Anne Hirsch, CNM among others. Their cross-disciplinary knowledge based on innovative and brilliant studies are, besides their merit, very absorbing. Some of the notions, however, are secondary. One of the main movie’s expert, Gabor Maté, M.D., is literally repeating the passages from The Culture High (2014’s Brett Harvey’s documentary) and the ideas once mentioned in The Zeitgeist Movement (I’m referring to Peter Joseph’s Zeitgeist Trilogy). However being the sought after expert (and my personal favorite) there is the moment when his expertise is shifting and Maté gets very personal using his own biography as an example of environmental and cultural dysfunction he experienced during his childhood and now talks about as one of main anxiety related pathology there are in the postwar society. You just don’t see things like this enough. To illustrate the cited problems, In Utero is using the fresh and interesting interpretations of pop culture icons such as The Little Mermaid, Alice in Wonderland, Alien, and Matrix. Some of the metaphors used in Gyllenhaal’s doc seems a little bit gore but surprisingly accurate, refreshing and very entertaining. Overall this is definitely one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in years. It has both: an eye-opening quality and a replay value.

We’re getting an honest amount of knowledge as it is now proven that while in a womb fetus is producing 50 000 neurons every second (!) and that all the newer child diseases (ADHD or autism) are solely caused by mothers’ stress and anxiety during the pregnancy. Some of the notions can sometimes stigmatize women and put a lot of pressure on them. After a while, the tone softens and we’re left with awareness and importance of the social environment we create every day for people who happen to be in our proximity. It is said that, along with their babies, women are carrying the burden of social and gender inequality that was their reality for centuries. Traumas and dysfunctions are easily passing onto the new generations and there are more of them every day. It puts the spotlight on each and every one of us as a responsible one for fixing it.

A synopsis written by Kathleen Man Gyllenhaal:

“IN UTERO is a cinematic rumination on what will emerge as the most provocative subject of the 21st Century – life in the womb and its lasting impact. Epigenetics, biochemistry, Alice In Wonderland, The Matrix, scientists, psychologists, and doctors converge to prove that we are not what we think we are. IN UTERO brings together for the first time convincing data that explains why some of us face challenges from the start while others thrive. Prepare to be surprised, intrigued, but no longer baffled by what the future holds for yourself, your loved ones, and the human race”. (Source: press materials)

The movie premiered on July 4th, 2015 during The Seattle International Film Festival as a Documentary Competition Selection.

For more information please visit the official website for the movie here.

© 2018 Anna Jozwiak. All rights reserved.

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