The Cement Garden (NL)
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Netherlands released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital 2.0 ), English ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), Dutch ( Subtitles ), French ( Subtitles ), SPECIAL FEATURES: Interactive Menu, Scene Access, SYNOPSIS: After the death of her husband, the mother of Julie, Jack, Sue and Tom begins to suffer from a mysterious illness. Aware that she is going to have to go into hospital she opens a bank account for the children, so that they can be financially self-sufficient and will be able to avoid being taken into care by the authorities. Unfortunately she also dies and Julie and Jack (the older, teenage children) decide to hide her body in the basement so that they can have free reign of their household. Soon Tom has taken to dressing as a girl whilst Sue has become increasingly reticent, confiding only to her diary, meanwhile Jack and Julie sense an attraction developing for each other. However Julie's new beau, Derek, threatens to unearth the many dark secrets within this family as he becomes increasingly suspicious of Jack.
SCREENED/AWARDED AT: Berlin International Film Festival, Camerimage Awards,
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I would say that there are some subtle differences in the storyline from book to DVD but they really do not matter as the DVD is as dark as the book and as enjoyable.
The story revolves around the death of the parents of a family leaving the two eldest to manage the family and keep it together, in fear of the youngsters being put into care since they have no adult guardians. The DVD treats the subject with a lot of emotion and tension. The sexual tension in the film can be cut by a knife, especially at my favourite part where there is a birthday party.
The story is believable, though the location of the house in the middle of nowhere is a bit far fetched (especially since I know the film was made in Beckton east London!!) but overall a real classic and well worth buying.
For a start it features excellent actors including Sinead Cusack who expertly plays the mother, but the real stars of this film are the children: Jack, Julie, Sue and Tom with Jack played by Andrew Robertson and Julie played by Charlotte Gainsbourg both being the main focus of the film and who are both incredibly photogenic and simply steal the show proving what fantastically accomplished young actors they really are.
Then there's the films musical score which is absolutely astounding, it's haunting for the best part of the film and tears at your heartstrings at times but it simply oozes atmosphere throughout and just adds to the overall surreal effect of this movie and is the best orchestrated score I have ever heard.
Then there's the film itself, which will be familiar if you've read the book, it's commonly thought to be set during the long hot summer of 1976, hottest summer on record being mentioned during the course of the movie but the fashions/styles are more of a 1960's/1970's pastiche. But this is of course a movie for adults and justifies it's 18 rating as it does contain a few shock moments, most notably the ending which although breaks a taboo is handled quite beautifully. Nevertheless there is so many visual treats shown throughout this movie, from the dark atmospheric reaction close ups on Jack's face which are accompanied by that heartstring tearing music, to Jack’s surreal seaside past dreams/flash-back sequences and not to mention the mothers death, which is upsetting enough to see and feel the youngsters loss, but when Jack and Julie have to move her body it's hard to keep a dry eye at the sight of Jack's despair and as always the movie score builds to see that. There's also the excellent camera work used to highlight the urban ruin that is their home/surroundings and the long shots of the children (notably Jack) walking to and from school are awe inspiring. Ok I could go on but that would be a spoiler and you need to watch this movie to really appreciate it anyway.
So overall this movie does much more than bring Ian McEwan's novel to the screen and although it has some uncomfortable to watch scenes it is on the whole a very beautiful film which has the effect of growing on you and becomes more enjoyable with each viewing, something you can't say for many films made nowadays. It also truly deserves to be given the label of British Classic as it’s been made with such care and to such a high standard with the excellent actors, the astounding musical score, the awe inspiring camera-work and of course the award winning story itself, I really can’t praise it highly enough.
The only disappointing aspect of this release by Cinema Club is the lack of extras offered, it would have been nice to have a commentary from the main cast as would seeing them reunited to offer their views and memories of the movie. A feature on the making of the movie would have been great, perhaps showing the location used in London and how it appears today and a music only option highlighting the awe inspiring orchestrated musical score would have been a treat too. There’s also a rumour that a large scene was deleted from the movie, so having the option to view that would have been nice. Then there’s the picture quality, which is of a good standard even when viewed on a large wide-screen TV although it does appear slightly grainy if viewed close up so I doubt it got much of a digital re-mastered makeover and the soundtrack is also good here offered in Dolby Digital Stereo but it would have been so much better if it was in 5.1. Ok maybe I’m nitpicking and a second disc full of extras might be a pipe dream but that would have been excellent all the same and who knows maybe one day that will happen.
In any case for now it’s an absolute treat that Cinema Club has made this movie available on DVD and so don’t just take my word for it, buy it and let it attack your senses too, you won’t be disappointed and if you don’t feel touched by the visuals and music of this powerful drama then your not human.
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