Patience was no doubt required of the Three Wise Men as they made their way toward Bethlehem, and the same will be required of auds who seek out “Birdsong,” Albert Serra’s minimalist reinterpretation of the Magi’s journey. Hushed, contemplative but often quite droll experiment offers beautifully sculpted images on a black-and-white canvas across its sometimes hypnotic, sometimes tedious runtime. Like Serra’s Don Quixote riff “Honor de cavalleria,” which also bowed in the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, pic won’t see much action beyond fests and a few offshore playdates.
Three robed men (all played by thesps with the first name Lluis) tread very, very slowly across a craggy landscape, bickering comically over how they should proceed in their search for the Christ Child. Grounded in desert dunes and rocky ruins, pic reps a profound attempt to locate the spiritual within the material. There’s no disputing Serra’s remarkable eye (some brief underwater footage is especially mesmerizing), though most shots, such as one that reduces the men to specks on the horizon, are sustained well past the endurance point. Absent any unnatural light, much less a guiding star, nighttime shots are impenetrable.