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January 29, 2006

The Constant Gardener (2005)

Movie image
Title:
The Constant Gardener (2005)
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

I initially waited for a while before seeing this film, for a variety of reasons. Well, mostly because the name and the combo of actors didn't quite light the fire. I went to see 'The Exorcism Of Emily Rose' instead. In retrospect it seems a shocking decision.

This film is a masterpiece through and through - combining awe-inspiring photography with jaw dropping African scenery tied together with a thin but sturdy string. Furthermore, it does exactly what it says on the tin – it is a political thriller mixed with a love story. For me the latter is always weak compared to the former as subject matter, but the film just about pulls it off.
I cannot remember the last film I saw which does anything like this anywhere near as well.

The basic story goes like this: an affable, low-key British diplomat (played by the quintessentially English Ralph Fiennes) finds and marries Tessa (a boisterous and rebellious Rachel Weisz). She begs him to take her to Kenya and he does. Unfortunately, she is a passionate human rights advocate wth very little respect for laws and regulations.

She manages to get into a spot of bother with a couple of pharmaceutical companies and the film really kicks off. She is killed and her partner for the trip tortured before being crucified. Our valiant diplomat finally decides to go for it and pursues this dangerous alliance of business, government and contract-killers. It's adapted from a Le Carre novel – what did you expect?

Anyway, sounds awfully complex and heavy, doesn't it? Well, it is a bit.
But don't let that put you off. It is, in my opinion, one of the very finest films to come out of English language cinema in the past 20 years. If you see just one film in the near future, make it this. Ultimately, if I wasn’t hugely impressed with this film, I wouldn’t have bothered to write a review. Too much bother, you see. But this film deserves it. And if you don’t trust me, check out link.

I find it most disgusting that it was not considered for any category at the Golden Globes. Perhaps its modest nature put punters off – due to its documentary-esque nature, the acting is rarely dramatic. Weisz is good in her somewhat limited role, but Fiennes really outdoes himself with a superb portrayal of a modest man undone.

The photography is simply brilliant – it is shot almost as a documentary at times, at times with instrumental music, at times with African (and other) tribal music; all combining to create an unforgettable experience. It may well leave a mark on you because of the way it showcases the fragility of life, or the perceived cheapness of African lives, or the way it is shot. But then I’m being sentimental – see for yourself.


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