The Book of Birdie
The Book of Birdie is a weird one. The film is nearly impossible to categorize into one or even two genres. Somehow, nothing really happens in the plot, yet a lot goes on. Even with this lack of specificity or tonal cohesiveness, it wholly grabbed my attention.
The film begins with Birdie (Ilirida Memedovski) being dropped at a convent by her grandmother. Though it’s unclear precisely why she can’t live at home any longer, it’s framed as a way for Birdie to be protected from the outside world. After The Nun and The Devil’s Doorway earlier this year, it was a change of pace to see a nun-centric location not be based in the horrors of Catholicism. Though the film has some startling imagery as the story progresses, none of that seems to be related to the crimes committed by the Church.
In her first few days at the convent, Birdie settles into her new home. She doesn’t seem particularly interested in bonding with the nuns, and is unsure if she’ll ultimately take the vows herself, but she acts altogether unfazed by her sudden change of scenery. The daughter of the groundskeeper, Julie (Kitty Hall), is close to Birdie’s age, and the two quickly strike up a friendship.
Lest you think that The Book of Birdie is merely a coming-of-age story of a potential nun, it’s much more than that. Birdie sees things. Initially, it’s unclear if the visions she has are real or imaginary, but it is clear that her version of reality is far more complex than our own. Birdie also has a preoccupation with blood, and is fascinated with viscera of all sorts. She’s not a typical teenage girl.
Through Birdie’s peculiarities, The Book of Birdie ruminates on some intense themes. Fertility, and specifically menstruation, are at the forefront of her experiences in life, and she contemplates these physical processes with little regard to social taboo. It’s actually quite refreshing to see a film regard period blood as a vehicle for some fantastic realism, rather than a sign that a character is possessed by a demon.
Unfortunately, in some of these surreal sequences The Book of Birdie suffers from downright poor CGI. The animations are used sparingly, but they’re distracting and feel out of place in the rest of the film. The practical effects, as well as the overall look of the film, are otherwise beautifully executed.
The Book of Birdie is currently available through VOD services after making a run in international genre film fests. It’s an odd little film, but by no means a waste of your time.