Clone (or Womb as it was originally known before being retitled for it’s UK Home Cinema release) is a sci-fi drama starring Eva Green (from The Dreamers and Casino Royale) and Matt Smith (the hipster elephant man currently playing the latest incarnation of the much loved, but increasingly flogged dead horse, Dr Who). Set in a nondescript and stark seaside landscape, Clone follows the story of Tommy and Rebecca who having grown close as children are torn asunder when Rebecca’s parents move to Tokyo. Years later Rebecca returns and she and Tommy begin a relationship, only to be once again cut short by his death after being hit by a car. Distraught, Rebecca chooses to clone him (this is where the subtle sci-fi element comes in), giving birth to and raising a copy of her lover as her son.
Incestuous overtones aside, the movie is damned strange; it’s pace is slow, to the point of glacial, and almost all character interactions are portrayed with an uneasy tension that borders on instability. Each scene is a myriad of intentionally long gazes, and bizarre uncomfortable emptiness. Before his death, Tommy and Rebecca’s interactions are less like lovers and more like odd scenario’s in social awkwardness. Early on in the movie one character says the line “let’s play at being normal people” and, having brought up the perceived oddness of the characters, from thereon no one tries in the slightest to behave like ‘normal people’.
Having waited for 12 years to be reunited there’s an inherent tragedy in the short time the two main characters have together, but it’s rather extreme to simply grow a replacement, and raising a clone of a dead lover is ever so slightly twisted. There’s also a thinly veiled sexual tension existing through the relationship Rebecca has with clone Tommy who is simultaneously her son and her former lover, and bubbling beneath the surface of these tranquil yet oddly intense characters is the hint of deep instability. Inevitably the film culminates in an uncomfortable to watch incestuous love scene between Rebecca and the clone of Tommy.
Clone is a bleakly picturesque movie with plenty of long shots of beaches, water, sprawling natural landscapes that are interspersed throughout the sluggish, sparse melancholy of the narrative. There’s a constant feeling of isolation that is not only due to the apparent remoteness of the setting but also the vacant ambient soundscape. In a rather abstract way the movie brings up some interesting thoughts about cloning, human rights, family structure, etc, but does so in such a cold, emotionless way that it verges on clinical.
Above is the rather marvellously designed poster for the film, back before someone made the baffling decision to change the title into a contrivance. Perhaps Womb was phonetically too similar to Moon, a movie with which Clone not only shares the concept of human copying but also a constantly unsettling placidity and bizarreness.
Some very intense performances, not only from Green and Smith but from Lesley Manville and Peter Wright as Tommy’s parents, contribute to the overall atmosphere of unsettling oddness. Clone is interesting and at times beautifully executed but it’s slow and indirect pace makes it a chore to get through, although a haunting one at that.
Clone is available on Blu-Ray and DVD May 7.