How to Film the ‘Breaking Dawn’ Birth Sequence

The marriage of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen is the Alchemical Wedding of Red King and White Queen. The child they conceive, the so-called ‘Philosophical Orphan,’ is supposed to cause their deaths, at least according to the rubrics of literary alchemy. The orphan is a character stand-in for the Philosopher’s Stone and is meant to be an incarnation of the contraries needing resolution in the story’s setting. Renesme not only has a name that screams “resolution” (at least as much as “melange” does), she is also the human-vampire androgyn and alchemical Rebus that unites vampires, shape-shifting werewolves, and hapless humans. Really, in the allegorical story of Latter-day Saint divinization embedded in the last three Twilight novels via the hermetic symbolism of alchemy, the marriage and apotheosis-in-sacrificial-childbirth scenes are essential — and wild. (All of which is explained in detail in Spotlight: An Up-Close Look at the Artistry and Meaning of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga.)

But how do you film Bella’s bone-breaking and bloody-beyond-belief birthing? And keep a PG-13 rating?  The discussion is on in earnest at this mommy weblog; I hope you’ll share your ideas in the comment boxes here. Usually, I don’t care for movie versions of book scenes for which I have pretty vivid images in my head already. In this case, though, I think I may see the film only to displace the ones I have from the printed page and my imagination. (Hat Tip to Arabella!)


  1. More on the Twilight movie front: ‘What Might Have Been’ (a new low in movie adaptations of books, it sounds like, if that is possible…)

    Moviefone: Whenever anyone mentions ‘Twilight,’ people automatically think of forbidden love, sparkly vampires, and that werewolf kid who can’t keep his shirt on — but the ‘Twilight’ fans know and love almost didn’t happen. Instead, the teenage romance tale nearly became an action film. Producer Mark Morgan talked with Hollywood Life recently and revealed some of the details found in the early drafts of the big screen adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s novel. If you ever wondered what Bella and Edward’s love story might have looked like with a Korean FBI agent tracking vampires or with Bella fighting back against the vampire clan, you would have found out had the first scripts been filmed. Morgan tells the site, “They wanted to change everything.” According to the producer, one draft had Bella becoming a vampire in the first film and others had her father dying. Twi-hards are no doubt thrilled that these interpretations of the beloved books never saw the light of a projector’s bulb — but the franchise they adore could have gone in an entirely different direction … one that looked something like ‘Underworld.

  2. Well, John, I think you and I have been at a few births ourselves, and I have to say: I am just bracing myself.

    Even normal births are portrayed on TV and film in ludicrously horrific fashion. I can’t remember seeing anything remotely like an actual birth in the media. They may be out there, but I sure don’t remember any.

    And yet Bella’s birth experience is supposed to be truly horrifying, and easily the most true-horror moment in the series. One minute everything is fine, and the next, you’re vomiting great gouts of blood. So I can’t quite get past my fears of what will happen in the BD film.

    What compounds my fears is neither screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg or director Bill Condon have had children, and so who knows what bizarre stretches they will reach for to try to portray this horrifying birth? Rosenberg asked if viewers wanted to see Edward having to bite through the “placenta;” didn’t she mean, “uterus?” Ugh. Heaven help us.

    So, at this point, I imagine shaky-cam, in-an-out-of-focus shots of hallucinogenic fountains of blood, grotesque open wounds with gore spilling out, with plenty of bone-breaking sound effects, while the background music evokes the shower scene from Psycho — at top volume.

    I worry this movie may be remembered as the film where millions of young girls swear off giving birth forever. I have often wondered if Stephenie has the world’s kindest, most sensitive, and least capable OB-GYN on the planet.

    Now, on the plus side, producer Wyck Godfrey’s wife is a famous, well-respected, and much-beloved OB-GYN in Beverly Hills. We can only hope and pray that she is consulted in-depth on the birth scene. Surely she can point out that while C-sections are real surgery, they are quick, efficient, and are over in moments.

    In my own experience, such as it is, childbirth is very intense yet wonderful, a profoundly physical yet transcendently spiritual experience. And while I expect the sequence to strike the notes of fear many of us experience entering childbirth, I will be deeply disappointed if the “horror” overwhelms Bella’s wonderful moment seeing her daughter for the first time.

  3. BTW, if anyone wants to ask Melissa for themselves — and is somewhere near New York this Saturday — she will be on a vampire panel discussion at the New Yorker Festival, along with Stephen “Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn” King.

    More information and tickets:

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