44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
A green thumb
, 5 Jan. 2006
This review is from: The Constant Gardener [DVD]  (DVD)
The title 'The Constant Gardener' has multiple meanings for this film, but first it refers to the obvious, the character of Justin Quayle, a middle-tier member of the British diplomatic corps in Africa, who is constantly trying to cultivate a proper garden, be it in London or in Africa. Into his routine civil service existence, Tessa arrives, full of ideas, passion for justice, and more than a few secrets. Of course, the diplomatic corps powers also have their secrets, and it is in the clash of secrets that Tessa ends up being murdered, and Justin's life turns from one of routine if not wholehearted loyalty to the service into an extraordinary, passionate and heart-felt loyalty to the memory of his wife.
This film is remarkable in several ways, not the least because of the cinematography. More than half the film is set in Africa, both Kenya and the Sudan. Here is life in all its contradictions - abject poverty and stunning beauty, illness and disease amidst the overpopulation; life among the dying, and death among the living. One thing the viewer will notice is that all of the scenes in Africa are shown in vivid, powerful colours. The scenes in London and on the European continent are faded and gray; despite the fact that the European scenes are invariably set in wealthy settings (private clubs, opulent halls, expensive buildings, etc.), they lack the colour and life of the African scenes - even the Kenyan shanty town and the Sudanese refugee camp seem to contain more life than the major cities of the Western world. This is surely no accident, but rather a device the director used to intensify the contradictions.
There are several plots that lead into one another - what was Tessa really up to? Who was involved, and to what degree? There are a few subplots that fall short, but on the whole, the film hangs together well in a narrative sense. Tessa's murder is an early event, and much of the film is done in flash-back or memory sequences, until the two come together in time frame and the mystery begins to reach some clarity.
This film is directed by Fernando Meirelles, who was nominated for an Oscar for his first film, the Brazilian 'City of God'. His is certainly a name to watch. In this film he directs
Ralph Fiennes ('The English Patient', a film that bears many similarities here) and Rachel Weisz ('The Mummy'), together with a good collection of British and African actors. The extras casting for Africa was extremely well done, and the nice touches such as the AIDS street-theatre performance in the Kenyan slum were inspired.
The film has a majestic, broad and sweeping feel to it. One is treated to a visual banquet of images, colourful deserts and lakes, wildlife and plant life, and the people of the lands of Africa, all truly remarkable. The music is sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatic - much is inspired by native sounds of Africa.
The film is engrossing and interesting, causing many feelings to grow in the garden of viewing.
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